Despite dire predictions about a drastic drop in remittances that Nepal gets from its workers abroad due to the Covid-19 induced economic downturn, money transfers have hit Rs875 billion which is only 0.5% less than the preceding year.
This is in stark contrast to the World Bank’s prediction of a 14% decline, a worst-case scenario of a 28.7% drop by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), and the forecast of an 18% reduction by Nepal’s Central Bureau of Statistics.
During the initial months of the crisis in March/April remittances did take a sharp dip, declining from Rs79.2 billion the preceding month to Rs34.5 billion. But it has since picked up, rising steadily to Rs94 billion in May/June and Rs101 billion in June/July. Far from declining, the figures for the past two months are record high monthly inflows to date. (See graphs)
The annual growth rate of remittances till this year, which declined by only 0.5%, had been on a positive trajectory, with year-on-year increase of 7.9% in 2017/18 and 14.1% in 2018/19.
“In many essential sectors including manufacturing, Nepali migrant workers overseas have continued to work throughout the pandemic,” explains Gunakar Bhatta, spokesperson at Nepal Rastra Bank. With news of the virus spreading in Nepal and complications with repatriation, many workers may now be weighing their options and deciding to stay back abroad.
Ramesh, a Nepali worker at WRP Asia, a company making latex gloves in Malaysia, says that after the initial slump at the factory, there is now lots of work because of the heightened global demand for gloves.
“We are now all working overtime. I just finished an 11 hour shift, 8 hours of my regular hours with 3 hours overtime,” he told us over the phone from Kuala Lumpur. Other Nepalis employed overseas in storekeeping, domestic work, cleaning and security, considered essential services, have continued to work right through the pandemic.
Also, the volume of workers who have registered to return home pales in comparison those who have decided to stay back, either because they are continuing to work or they are in a wait-and-watch mode as their decision depends on the situation of their employers. Many are also waiting for normal flights to resume on 1 September.