Overseas voting centres for expats likely: Muhith


(BSS) – Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith today hinted at setting some polling centres abroad to facilitate the Bangladeshi expatriates in casting votes in the next general elections. “May be in the next election, we may set up a few of them (voting centres). We can establish (stations) in the UK, one or two centres in North America…the Middle East like Saudi Arabia or Malaysia is another place perhaps,” he told a seminar at Bangabandhu International Conference Center (BICC) in the capital. Muhith said another four to five stations or voting centres could be designated for casting votes by the expatriates in those countries saying: “It’s not very difficult, not too expensive, I’ve noted down it in my pad and this might be an initiative that we could implement in the next year.” The Bangladeshi expatriates have the voting rights, he said, but they only need to be registered. “It happens mostly, when expatriates come home, they do enroll themselves in the voters list.”

Economic Relations Division (ERD) Secretary Kazi Shofiqul Azam presided over the international seminar on “NRB Engagement in National Development: Strategies and Way Forward.”

The seminar was addressed, among others, by Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Secretary Dr Nomita Halder, UNDP Bangladesh Country Director Sudipto Mukherjee and Policy Adviser to the a2i programme Anir Chowdhury.

Prof Mobasser Monem, a teacher of the Department of Public Administration at Dhaka University, presented the findings of his study titled, ‘Engagement of Non-resident Bangladeshis (NRBs) in National Development: Strategies, Challenges and Way Forward’.

Responding to the suggestions of the study on the NRBs, the finance minister said there have been a lot of suggestions about incentives that the government can provide in all the areas, including in investment and importing goods. “Yes, we’ve some mechanism in the Ministry of Finance to provide such incentives. But, this is mostly on adhoc basis,” he said.

Muhith on went saying: “We can perhaps systematize it in such a manner that we could have a couple of meetings in a year to consider all kinds of export incentives and thus announce the incentives. It could be perhaps twice in a year.”

He said a decision could now be taken to hold an annual NRB conference in the country, but it can also be held outside the country.

Mentioning that around 8 to 10 million of Bangladeshi expatriates are now working abroad, the finance minister said Bangladesh now has the largest number of expatriates in Saudi Arabia followed by Malaysia.

During his presentation, Prof Mobasser Monem suggested taking measures to acknowledge the contribution of NRBs as well as strengthening the government efforts to honour the successful NRBs. “For instance, ‘Probashi Padak’ can be given annually to successful NRBs in different areas,” he said.

Prof Mobasser also mentioned that about 10 million Bangladeshis are now living abroad. Of them, about 2.4 million Bangladeshis are living permanently in around 162 countries either as citizens or with valid documents, he said.