- Dec. records highest-ever monthly remittances of US$ 813mn
- SL received US$ 7.1bn in remittance in 2020 compared to US$ 6.7bn in 2019
Sri Lanka ended 2020 with a record high income from migrant workers in four years, with December marking the highest income ever earned in a month, amid early forecasts of significant decline in such earnings.
According to the latest data available, Sri Lankan migrants have remitted US$ 813 million in December 2020, the highest-ever monthly income received, recording 22.2 percent increase.
In the same month a year earlier in 2019, Sri Lanka received only US$ 665 million before any sign of jobs and economic disruption was visible from a pandemic.
December typically marks a higher than average remittance income due to it being a festive month and the people working abroad are used to send little more than what they normally send back to their families and other dependents at home. March is generally the month, which registers the highest monthly remittance income as majority migrant workers send more money in view of the Sinhala and Tamil New Year in April.
With the December record, Sri Lanka in total received US$ 7.1 billion from worker remittances in 2020 compared to US$ 6.7 billion in 2019, registering a robust 5.8 percent increase. The last time Sri Lanka surpassed US$ 7.1 billion from worker remittances was in 2016, with a US$ 7.2 billion income. Thereafter it lost steam. Performance of remittance income post-pandemic was one of the notable economic matrices, which economists and analysts got terribly wrong last year.
The World Bank in April, at the height of the pandemic, predicted a 19 percent collapse in worker remittances to Sri Lanka due to global economic disruptions, including loss of jobs.
Many thought the fast spreading virus would prompt migrants to return home en masse, but that didn’t happen, though the number of new job seekers in the Gulf and elsewhere fell substantially as borders remained closed while the economies around the world were scrambling to get back up after months long lockdowns.
While the Sri Lankan migrants have stood up for the occasion, by sending valuable foreign currency to Sri Lanka, a number of cases have been reported where they— specially those who were returning from Gulf countries— were ill-treated and extorted during their repatriation flight as well as during the mandatory quarantine, even though labeling them as ‘Rata Viruwo.’