The Financial Express

Bank loans elude returnee workers

Lack of training and counselling blamed

| Updated: September 17, 2020 13:30:10

Lankabangla and Fianancial Express Lankabangla and Fianancial Express
Bank loans elude returnee workers

Returnee migrant workers are facing difficulties in getting income generating loans from Probashi Kallyan Bank (PKB) due to lack of proper training and counselling about receiving and utilising the fund, insiders have said.

Fulfilling the terms and conditions of the loans is not easy for the migrant workers who returned home almost empty-handed. So, the workers are facing troubles while going to apply for the loans, they added.

More than 7,000 returnee workers visited PKB branches in their respective areas since the launch of the fund on July 15 last, according to PKB officials.

Only 200 of them could submit proposals but not properly. So, the bank could not yet start disbursing loans, they said.

Some 127,209 migrant workers returned home from different job destination countries during the period between April 01 and September 12 following coronavirus impact.

Many of them have returned home empty-handed while many others are distressed as they have been cheated by dishonest recruiters. A significant number of the returnees were in prison prior to their departure for home. More workers are also expected to come back home this year.

To provide financial support to returnee workers, the Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment has launched a loan scheme worth Tk 2.0 billion through PKB.

Workers will get Tk 100,000 to Tk 500,000 each based on their project proposals for income-generating activities. The rate of interest of the loan has been fixed at 4.0-per cent.

A PKB official said workers are coming to different branches to take loans, but the majority of them have no idea and required papers to submit proposals to avail the loans. Even they don't know how they will utilise money in an income generating scheme.

So, the PKB is providing counselling to the workers. So far the bank provided counselling services to 6,000 to 7,000 workers who went to PKB branches in their respective areas for loans, he mentioned.

When asked, he said they have sorted about 200 proposals made by the workers. But those are also incomplete.

Among those, they have selected 50 proposals which are almost perfect. "Now we are trying to start disbursing loans to them soon," he added.

Wage Earners' Welfare Board (WEWB) has provided the fund to the PKB without any interest. The workers who returned home after March 01 will be eligible for the loans.

Besides, family members like wives, children and parents of those who died of coronavirus in their job destination countries will also be eligible for this fund.

But workers or their families who back home must show documents on migration through legal channel or send remittance through official procedure to get loans.

Talking to the FE, PKB managing director Mahtab Zabin said hopefully, they can start disbursing loan soon.

"If some workers can receive loans successfully, then others will be familiar with the system how to apply for the fund," she said.

They are giving counselling supports to the workers and getting good result, said the PKB MD and expressed the hope that such problem would be solved within six months.

She also said they are trying to simplify the process so that workers can easily get the fund.

Shakirul Islam, chairman of Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Programme (OKUP), a community-based migrants' organisation, said they talked to several returnee workers who are willing to take PKB loans for livelihood schemes. But they have no idea about the process of applying for it.

He said it is needed to provide long-term training and psycho-social counselling to prepare them for utilising the loans. Otherwise. it will not be sustainable, he said.

To this effect, he said, a comprehensive database is crucial to know about the status of the workers. Terms and conditions should be worker-friendly, he added.

Maximum of them are distressed because they came back home due to reasons like job cut or cheating by dishonest manpower recruiters, he said.

A joint effort by departments and institutes concerned should be made for giving required mental supports and livelihood training to them, Mr Islam observed.

An official at MoE WOE said they are preparing a comprehensive database of all returnee migrant workers to extend reintegration support.

But they are not making any special databank of the workers who returned home during the coronavirus pandemic.

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