The phenomenon that luxuries bought and brought from foreign countries has recently become a craze for the Bangladesh people, is nothing new. It was always there. To display gaudy style is always a psychological impulse and a propensity.
However, it has nowadays become, as though, a way of life, particularly of a section of upper and upper middle class people. More and more people now shop abroad and spend huge amount of foreign currency. Ultimately, this causes massive capital flight since they carry amount of foreign currency much beyond the permissible limit. People make shopping visiting the USA, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, India, Middle East and the European countries. There they buy mainly luxury items, which are costly in Bangladesh.
While visiting foreign countries most people carry excess foreign currency and they do this without disclosure or get it from third source. This practice only partly explains why so much capital flight from the country is taking place. Such practices on the part of country's citizens deprive the economy and prevent higher potential for growth. Ahead of Eid festivals the country's opulent section of people as well as nouveaux riches go on trip abroad for shopping. The travellers from Bangladesh usually buy clothing, cosmetics, ornaments and a lot more costly items.
We may very well chastise these people for buying foreign goods. But, in the fitness of things, it will be more advisable to raise question about quality of local products. Before we stress the need for creating the mindset of such people to buy more and more local products instead of foreign items, the prices and quality of local goods need to be reasonable.
Experience shows that for the Bangladeshi middle class, India is the single largest destination for medical tourism. In the fiscal year 2015-2016, India earned over US$350 million from Bangladeshis for medical tourism. According to experts' opinion, our health services should improve and be impressive. They emphasise that the attitude towards the patients of Bangladeshi physicians needs to be more amicable. This will induce our patients seeking medical treatment elsewhere. The relevant authorities need to do yet a lot to address such sort of capital flight.
Capital flight has to be stopped at all costs at the earliest to save hard currency that the country badly needs. Under the circumstances, we see that preventing flight of capital in any form is one of major challenges facing Bangladesh and the country has to make all out efforts to overcome such challenges.
Sarwar Md. Saifullah Khaled is a retired professor of Economics and Vice Principal at Cumilla Government Women's College, Cumilla.