Remittances rebuilding homes-and hope

In a small village of Sindhupalchok district, Swarthok, about 50 kilometre east of Kathmandu, Jeeban Puri was busy constructing a temporary shelter for his family.  Around 90 houses including his were flattened by the 7.8 Richter scale earthquake that struck Nepal on April 25–killing almost 9,000 people.

Many blue, red and yellow tarpaulins has dominated the lanscape  as villagers were forced to find temporary shelters after their homes were damaged or destroyed. Jeeban Puri had arrived home from Saudi Arabia just days after the earthquake. He lost his three-year-old son.

“I came as soon as I could—arrived few days after the earthquake,” said a visibly distressed Puri who has been devastated by the death of his child. He works as a driver for a private gas station in Saudi Arabia.

At a time when many people have been left homeless—deprived of livelihood, he has been spared of the immediate depravity of basic things—thanks to his foreign employment. He has been working in Saudi Arabia for the past two years.

“At least I was earning some money abroad which helped me cover my family’s daily expenses,” Puri said, who made as much as Rs 40,000 a month.

I didn’t have to wait for the Rs 15,000 from the government, says Puri.

Chameli Waiba’s husband was in Malaysia when the earthquake struck Nepal. She ran out of her house along with her two-year-old son.

“It was very difficult as my husband was not with me,” she says. “I wished my husband was with me.”

They have been told not to live in the house. Chameli along with her child and in-laws spend several nights in the open field shelter protected by a torn tarpaulin.

But, now they have managed to build a temporary shelter, thanks to the money sent by her husband.

Balaram Shrestha, of Tukucha- 4 in Kavre district is happy having sent his son to Qatar. He spent some Rs 100,000 to send his son to Qatar last year.

“Sending my son abroad costs us a fortune but it has paid back in these difficult times,” Shrestha said over the phone. “At least there’s a hope that my son will help rebuild our home again.”

So far Tejendra Shrestha, 26, has sent some 75,000 rupees. “It has helped me build my temporary shelter and cover our daily expenses.”

Chief of the Foreign Employment Promotion Board, Raghu Raj Kafle believes that the remittance played a very important role in helping Nepalis to absorb the immediate financial shock of the disaster.

“Though in some ways there were fewer youths for immediate rescue and relief after the earthquake, but thinking long-term it helped the families to recover from the financial shock,” said Kafle. Most households have at least one member working abroad, he says. “There were some companies that gave two-three months salary to their staff in advance so that they can send money back for reconstruction.”

A study conducted by Centre for the Study of Labour and Mobility, immediately after the earthquake also showed that “money” sent by Nepalis migrants was very important for their family members to deal with the aftermath of the earthquake.

According to the Nepal Rastra Bank’s data, there has been large increase in remittance inflow to Nepal immediately after the earthquake. In mid-April to mid-May and mid-May to mid-June this year remittances amounting to Rs. 63 billion flowed into the country. This compared to inflows of Rs. 47 billion in the earlier months.

Nepal has sent a record number of workers abroad in the past few years.

It is estimated that over a 1,000 Nepalis leave the country every day to work in the Gulf, Malaysia and South Korea. The money sent home by more than 2.5 million Nepali migrant workers is the largest foreign exchange earner for the country.

Remittance’s GDP share

According to the Nepal’s Economic Survey, every year, about 500,000 labor forces are entering the market. Failure to provide adequate employment opportunities within the country has led to the increased outbound trend of migrant workers for foreign employment. As a result, the growth rate of worker’s remittance has continued to swell in recent years. Last year, remittances were worth roughly US $6 billion.

Remittance as percentage of GDP, which was 11.1 percent in FY 2004/05, has reached 28.0 percent in FY2013/14.

According to World Bank data, Nepal stands third among the countries in the world in terms of share of remittance to GDP.

The Post Disaster Needs Assessment 2015 shows that the earthquake will end up pushing 2.5 to 3.5 percent Nepalis into poverty in 2015-2016 which translates into at least 700,000 additional poor. This will lead to more exodus of people in search of employment. Conincidently, the government recently has announced a free visa and free ticket policy for migrant workers going to Gulf and Malaysia.

“This is certainly going to be very helpful to those trying to go abroad,” says Kafle.

Source: The Kathmandu Post

By: Sushama Pandey

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