Remittances leading Bangladesh out of poverty

Mohammad Majnu Miah has bought some land and rebuilt his house, in which a television and CD player take pride of place, thanks to the remittances his wife and son send him from the Maldives, where they have worked for six years, writes Anis Ahmed for Reuters Africa.

“The money comes to roughly 30,000 taka($400) a month, a small fortune in a nation where one-third of the population survives on $1.25 a day – and is a big part of why some villages, like Shahabazpur, are slowly crawling out of the grinding poverty that grips 30 percent of the Bangladeshi people.

“I have to manage and invest their income here at home. Using their hard-earned money in a meaningful way is not an easy task,” Majnu said. “I plan on buying a refrigerator soon.”

Shahabazpur, which lies around 150 km (90 miles) east of the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka and about half a kilometre from the bank of the Meghna river, now has three primary schools, at least six mosques, a community clinic, and dirt and asphalt roads connecting many homes.

Most of its 5,500 residents are much better off than they were a decade ago. They grow enough rice and vegetables to feed their families, have savings to support their other needs, and dress in new clothes for festivals and social occasions.

The secret is the remittances from people working abroad, said Abdul Wahid, a village bank employee.

“The money from expatriates is the main source of income for many families,” he said. Roughly a thousand villagers currently work abroad.

They are not alone. More than 7 million Bangladeshis are spread all over the globe, doing everything from running food courts and staffing shops, to tilling land in African nations and tending fruit gardens in the deserts of the Mideast.

They send home roughly $11 billion annually, according to central bank and Bureau of Statistics data, a key earner for a nation whose 2010-2011 GDP came in at $100 billion.

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