An interview with Chandula Abeywickrema, Consultant – Strategy and Marketing, National Savings Bank (NSB)
The first-ever International Day of Family Remittances declared by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is celebrated today (June 16) to primarily recognize the sacrifices made by 250 million international migrants worldwide on behalf of their families.
The Rome-based IFAD champions the development of global remittances by migrant workers living outside the country they call home.
The IFAD acknowledges the huge sacrifices made by these migrant workers who live and work overseas and are thereby deprived of family fellowship, togetherness and companionship. They leave their near and dear ones behind to travel to strange lands and work alone to support their families economically so that they could lead better lives.
These international migrant workers collectively remit US$ 450 billion annually to their respective countries. This translates into the transfer of funds from developed countries to under-developed and developing nations.
The remittances not only financially support families of migrant workers back home, but also contribute positively towards the economy of the respective countries through the infusion of foreign exchange earnings.
The monies these international migrants remit to their respective countries annually is far bigger than donor funding – aid given to these poor nations by international lending agencies
In Sri Lanka, migrant workers play a significant role by remitting around US$ 7 billion annually, which offers financial solace to their families and also helps in a big way to boost the country’s foreign exchange reserves and fund the procurement of import commodities.
The inward remittances ensure the economic survival of families of migrant workers and pave the way for them to build houses, educate their children and overall improve livelihoods and secure their future.
There are 1.5 million Sri Lankan migrant workers overseas, which means that an equal number of families are left at home without the company of their loves ones. It is important to recognize the sacrifices of these migrant workers over the past 10-15 years not only towards enriching their families, but also giving an impetus to Sri Lanka’s economy through enhanced foreign exchange earnings.
One of the key features of this scenario, in its totality, is that, while improving life and living, it also affords an opportunity to these families to better educate their children – a long term plus factor in achieving benchmark standards in education.
It has to be, however, admitted that many social issues have emerged as a result of the father or mother being away from the family. This vacuum has to be filled. There are various institutions which benefit from the inward remittances business. US$ 450 billion is a lot of money and transferring such enormous funds annually generate substantial revenue.
What have banks and financial institutions done so far to make money transfers more easier and convenient and also prune down transaction costs? What is in focus here are convenience of transfer and affordability. The challenge is to make the process easy, convenient and affordable for workers, particularly those who earn relatively small salaries. Sometimes the cost per transaction amounts to US$ 20 -25, which is substantial.
As a key public sector financial institution, the National Savings Bank (NSB) serves every segment of society with profound commitment. On inward remittances also, we look after the rural, regional and urban, the poor, middle, lower and upper middle classes who have placed utmost trust on NSB as a bank which has served them for many generations.
NSB has embarked on U-Remit, a new remittance vehicle which affords convenience within a hassle-free environment. NSB prides itself on serving 17.92 million accounts, which is approximately two-thirds of the country’s population. Our reach consists of 250 branches, over 4,000 Post Offices island-wide and an ATM network that provides Master/Visa Debit Card facility.
Recipients of foreign inward remittances in rural areas can receive their funds from the nearest post office, without the hassle of traveling to a bank branch in the town. This shows that the NSB is closer to the people than any other institution.
NSB has developed a string of comprehensive partnerships in many countries including the Middle East, Europe and South Korea to accept remittances from dedicated touchpoints with convenience and affordability.
In addition, we have opened the door to a plethora of financial services for customers starting from savings accounts, housing, vehicle and consumer loans. Our key focus is on economic and social enrichment.
Migrant workers are an important segment. They should be looked after. That is why NSB offers a range of financial services for their welfare and convenience.
Source: The Island
By: Suresh Perera