Unlocking the diaspora potential

The government is going to formulate a policy with the broad objective to include Bangladeshi diaspora community in the country’s “march towards development” and ensure their wellbeing.

As per the draft “Bangladesh National Diaspora Policy-2023”, Bangladeshi diaspora are those “Bangladeshi individuals who obtain citizenship of another country or their citizenship status is under process or are permanently living in another country or were born as Bangladeshi-origin or grew up in another country”.

The draft policy categorises Bangladeshi diaspora in two groups — “Non-Resident Bangladeshi” and “people of Bangladeshi origin”, representing two generations — the “first-generation diaspora” and “next-generation diaspora”.

The draft policy was discussed yesterday during a validation workshop organised by the expatriates’ welfare ministry at a city hotel.

According to a 2021 study of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), there could be an estimated 2.4 million Bangladeshi diaspora with the United Kingdom and the United States of America — two key host countries.

Expatriates’ Welfare Minister Imran Ahmad said the aim behind the policy is “very high” and that is to get the Bangladeshis living abroad involved in the country’s development.

“This is the big scene,” he said, addressing the workshop as chief guest.

He said the draft policy will go through changes and it will be discussed with the relevant ministries, NRBs, NGOs, media and other stakeholders.

As per the draft policy, a diaspora engagement board will be formed under the ministry.

The board will coordinate with diaspora engagement groups “Amra Bangladesh”, which will be established at the Bangladesh missions in countries hosting the Bangladeshi diaspora community.

For investment, international trade and investment, conferences will be organised under public-private partnership that will include diaspora investors and entrepreneurs, reads the draft policy.

For the diaspora investors and entrepreneurs, multilingual web portals will be developed and those will be linked with the websites of Bangladesh missions, it says.

To attract the diaspora community for investing in Bangladesh, strategic partnership will be developed through establishing a tripartite network among relevant government bodies, private sector and diaspora trade organisations, it adds.

Once formulated, the policy will be a tool to encourage Bangladeshi diaspora to send remittance through authorised channels.

The draft policy includes three chapters with the third chapter incorporating 61 policy statements under four broad categories.

The broad categories are enhancing diaspora diplomacy and capacity building, mobilising diaspora socio-cultural capital, promoting diaspora human capital, and facilitating diaspora economic capital.

The draft policy says the process to issue “dual citizen certificate” and “dual nationality certificate” to interested and eligible diaspora individuals and their successors will be sped up while measures will be sped up to ensure voting rights of diaspora community in Bangladesh’s national and local elections.

Besides, the government will take measures to speed up the existing diaspora registration process (both online and offline) and develop a “uniform and up-to-date” diaspora database.

Economist Prof Abul Barkat, who was a consultant for the draft policy, hopes it will have a positive impact on Bangladesh’s development and commence a new era in the inclusion of diaspora community.

He said a plan of action will be required for the policy’s implementation.

Senior Secretary Ahmed Munirus Saleheen of expatriates’ welfare ministry said they will send the draft copy to the related ministries as there are cross-cutting issues in it.

IOM Bangladesh Chief of Mission Abdusattor Esoev said the IOM fully recognises the importance of continuing the engagement of diaspora with their countries of origin through its global “enable, empower, and engage” strategy approach.

Yaseen Chowdhury, general secretary of NRB CIP Association, and Bhorer Kagoj Editor Shyamal Dutta, among others, spoke at the workshop.

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