June remittances improve amid COVID-19
By Mario Andree
Sri Lanka’s largest source of foreign exchange, worker remittances, which has come under serious threat due to the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the global economy, has shown a growth in June this year for the first time since the country went into lockdown in March.
According to data released by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, worker remittances increased 6.7 per cent during June this year to US$ 572.5 million compared to US$ 536.6 million last year.
However, cumulative earnings from worker remittances during the first six months of this year declined 8.9 per cent to US$ 2.98 billion, compared to US$ 3.27 billion a year ago.
In May this year, worker remittances declined 23.2 per cent to US$ 431.8 million, compared to US$ 562.1 million earned a year earlier.
In April this year, worker remittances amounted to US$ 375 million, down 32.3 per cent from US$ 553.7 million a year earlier. In March this year, the country earned US$ 492.1 million from worker remittances, down 13.9 per cent from US$ 571 million a year ago.
In February this year, the country saw worker remittances increase 5.4 per cent to US$ 527.3 million from US$ 500.5 million a year ago.
The country started this year on a positive note, with worker remittances increasing 6.5 per cent to US$ 581 million in January, compared to US$ 545.3 million a year earlier.
With migrant workers returning to Sri Lanka due to fear of the pandemic, and some as a result of losing employment, the future of remittances seems to be uncertain.
Worker remittances have been Sri Lanka’s largest foreign exchange earner and the country’s balance of payments has been highly dependent on the income generated by migrant workers.
The sector is also one of the largest employment providers to address the unemployment and poverty issues prevailing in the country; however, Sri Lanka has been witnessing a declining trend in the number of departures for foreign employment over the last few years.