Remittances make an indispensable contribution to the Sri Lankan economy. In 2018, the country received remittances of over USD 7 billion, accounting for 7.9% of the GDP. Often, remittances to Sri Lanka are attributed to the temporary migrant workers and viewed from a national perspective. Nevertheless, there are more dimensions to remittances. This blog, Bilesha Weeraratne, examines the nuances of receipt of remittances, at the household level in Sri Lanka.
Taking into account the locations immediately affected by the Easter Sunday attacks and its ripple effects, a short- to medium-term impact on foreign exchange earnings is likely to be experienced in Sri Lanka. The tourism industry, despite once being well-positioned to continue its upward trend in foreign exchange earnings, is now likely to experience a temporary downfall, while international remittances, which were experiencing an incipient downward trend, are likely to experience a temporary upturn in the aftermath of these attacks, argues Bilesha Weeraratne.
The coordinated blasts on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka claimed more than 250 lives and left at least another 400 injured. While Sri Lanka battled a civil war for nearly three decades, this is a new brand of terrorism which transcends geographical borders. In this, migration in and out of countries play a critical role. Here, Bilesha Weeraratne sheds light on some of the policy developments that will need urgent attention in response to extremist terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka from a migration point of view and institutional changes in border control in Sri Lanka.
In 2017, foreign exchange earnings from worker remittances to Sri Lanka stood at USD 7.2 billion, well ahead of other major foreign exchange earners, while they also covered 96% of the trade deficit. Despite a few fluctuations, worker remittances to Sri Lanka have been growing over the years. At the same time, many developments in ICT and FinTech have emerged to facilitate remittance transaction. Nevertheless, whilst simplifying and making remitting more efficient, these developments have made remittances even more complicated.
The Sri Lankan economy is transitioning from a mere labour sending economy into one that both sends and receives workers. The same employment opportunities, working conditions, and demand and supply conditions that necessitated outmigration of Sri Lankans workers is now attracting foreign workers in to Sri Lanka. In this new reality, Sri Lanka needs an updated Act to govern immigration in to the country, as well as a matching institutional framework to ensure efficient and foolproof operation of related activities. In formulating such an institutional framework, it is important to note that migration transition is a long, complicated, and dynamic phase.