Zarif Mahmud: A record number of Bangladeshis are going abroad for various reasons including immigration, travel, medical treatment. Again, the price of airline tickets has increased by more than half. In all, Bangladeshis spent 80 percent more on foreign travel in the fiscal year 2022-23 than the previous fiscal year. In the fiscal year 2021-22, the expenditure of Bangladesh in the foreign travel sector was Tk 8,856 crores. In the last financial year, it exceeded Tk 15,931 crores. This information has emerged in the Central Bank’s ‘Balance of Payments’ annual report.
The two major sectors of expenditure in the country’s service sector are transport and travel expenditure. According to the data of Bangladesh Bank, the cost of goods and passenger transportation from abroad has decreased slightly in the last financial year. In the fiscal year 2021-22, the cost of bringing goods from abroad by land, water, air and rail was Tk 71,998 crores of Bangladesh. In the financial year 2022-23, this expenditure has come down to Tk 70,061 crores. Accordingly, the expenditure in the transport sector has decreased by Tk 1,937 crore. The opposite happened in the travel expenses of Bangladeshis abroad.
Expenditure on foreign travel for business purposes increased by more than 40 percent in the last financial year. And 81.22 percent increase in personal travel expenses.
The report on the country’s ‘Balance of Payments’ has been prepared by the Bangladesh Bank’s Statistics Department. Officials in charge of the department said that when officials of public-private and multinational organizations travel abroad for business purposes or to attend a conference, it is considered a business trip. And if you go abroad for any other purpose including tourism, education, medical, religious, it is shown as personal travel expenses. This cost is mainly the ticket price of the airlines.
Aviation experts and sector stakeholders say that the number of passengers going abroad has increased greatly due to various reasons including immigration and tourism. Airlines have also hiked ticket prices at an unusual rate. Again, there was a record depreciation of the taka against the dollar. Due to these reasons, the cost of traveling abroad for Bangladeshis has increased so much.
Dr Enayet Karim, President of the Global Economist Forumsaid, “The number of passengers going abroad has increased by 32-35 percent in the last financial year. Domestic and foreign airlines have increased ticket prices by 50-55 percent during this period. Because of this, Bangladeshi travel expenses have increased more than before. In this case, the increase in the exchange rate of the dollar also has an effect.
An aviation expert said, ‘Foreign airlines are unable to repatriate their ticket sales due to the dollar crisis in the country. For this reason, they have written several times to the government and Bangladesh Bank. Foreign airlines are suffering due to inability to repatriate ticket sales. To compensate for this loss, they have stopped selling low-cost tickets in Bangladesh. Bangladeshi passengers are suffering from this aspect as well.
Bangladesh Manpower Employment and Training Bureau (BMET) data says that only in the first nine months of 2023 (January-September) 9 lakh 89 thousand 685 Bangladeshi migrants went abroad as laborers. In 2022, the number of workers going abroad was 11 lakh 35 thousand 873. Due to increased passenger pressure, Bangladeshis traveling to Malaysia were forced to buy airline tickets at almost double the price last year. The same situation has happened in the case of Bangladeshis going to Middle East and Europe-America including Saudi Arabia.
Aviation Operators Association of Bangladesh (AOAB) Secretary General Mofizur Rahman said that despite the increase in the price of tickets of foreign airlines, the fares of the domestic routes of the country have decreased. The managing director of NovoAir, a private aircraft management company, told Barta, “Along with the number of passengers going abroad, the price of airline tickets has increased. But the fares on domestic routes have not been increased. However, the costs of the airlines have gone up a lot. Because of this, all the companies operating flights on domestic routes have been making losses since last February.
By reviewing the data of Bangladesh Bank, it can be seen that the number of foreign travelers from the country for business purposes and its expenditure is very low. In the financial year 2021-22, the expenditure on business travel sector was around Tk 287 crore. In the financial year 2022-23, this expenditure has increased to Tk 403 crores. In this case, the rate of increase in expenditure is more than 40 percent. In the financial year 2021-22, the personal foreign travel expenditure was about Tk 8,569 crores. In the last financial year, this expenditure increased to about Tk 15,528 crores. In this case, the country’s expenditure has increased by about 81.22 percent.
As imports are much more than exports, the country has a huge trade deficit every year. In the financial year 2021-22, the trade deficit of the country was Tk 2 lakh 86 thousand 970 crores. By reducing imports, this deficit was brought down to Tk 1 lakh 67 thousand 800 crore in 2022-23 financial year. Although it was possible to reduce the trade deficit, it was not possible to reduce the services account deficit in the last financial year. According to the data of Bangladesh Bank, in the fiscal year 2021-22, the deficit in the service sector of the country was Tk 31,388 crores. In the fiscal year 2022-23, this deficit increased to Tk 41,866 crores. As a result, the deficit has increased by Tk 10,478 crores. In the last financial year, the total expenditure in the service sector was Tk 1 lakh 11 thousand 571 crore. At the same time, Bangladesh also earned Tk 69,705 crore from the service sector.
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