The Probashi Kallyan Bank (PKB) has virtually outlived its utility as it has failed to make any headway in providing required funds to meet migration cost of prospective overseas workers and giving loans to returnees for their rehabilitation, sector insiders said.
The number of beneficiaries of the specialised bank is very low compared to the number of out-bound and returning workers each year. Rates of interest and collateral on its loans are also very high, they also pointed out.
However, officials at the PKB said the bank, after becoming a scheduled one, will be able to provide required facilities to migrant workers.
The PKB was launched by the government in April, 2011 especially to provide collateral-free loans to overseas job-seekers and to give loans for rehabilitation of returning workers in income- generating activities.
Since its operation, only 21,862 out-bound Bangladeshi workers were given loans by the bank during the period from fiscal year 2011-12 to February 2016-17, according to official data.
Of the total beneficiaries, only 153 returnees received loans for income generation at home. The amount of migration loan was Tk 2.04 billion whereas rehabilitation loan was Tk 25.9 million during the period.
Although a significant number of women migrant workers returned home falling victim to cheating and workplace exploitation each year, only one received rehabilitation loan so far. It is also another failure of the bank, observed migrant rights activists.
Last year, the outflow of Bangladeshi workers was more than 0.7 million. Of them, 0.1 million were women workers. Besides, between 1976 and 2016, about 10 million Bangladeshis went abroad with jobs, according to Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training (BMET) data.
Talking to the FE, Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Programme (OKUP) chairman Shakirul Islam said although the PKB was established to facilitate low-cost funds to the migrant workers, the bank has failed to meet the requirements.
The rates of interest against its loans are very high. It is not suitable for workers as they are from lower-income group, he pointed out.
He also said returning workers usually can't fulfill the conditions set for availing income-generating loan of the PKB.
After turning of the PKB into a scheduled bank, it is necessary to cut interest rates and make collaterals of income-generating loan simple, said Mr Shakirul Islam.
The income-generating loan is crucial for the returnees as by using this facility, they could make investment in different projects also utilising their small remittances and skills, he said.
The rate of interest is now 9.0 per cent on migration loan and 11 per cent on income-generating loan.
When contacted, Mahabbat Ullah, general manager of the bank, said due to fund shortage, the bank is unable to provide the required financial support to the clients.
"Currently, we can disburse loans to only a few clients," he said adding that after turning it into a scheduled bank, the PKB will be able to give services the migrant workers need.
He also hoped that the PKB would be converted into a scheduled bank within a short period of time as concerned authorities are actively considering the issue.
Meanwhile, the government recently decided to give Tk 2.50 billion to PKB for becoming a scheduled bank. The Wage Earners' Welfare Board (WEWB) will also provide Tk 500 million to the bank to help raise its paid-up capital to Tk 4.0 billion.