Enepalese Published on: January 8, 2024



Every month approximately 60,000 Nepali adults exit from Tribhuvan International Airport’s departure lounge for overseas destinations- mostly for employment. (Online Khabar May 21, 2023). According to Nepal migration report 2022,  highest number fly to six Gulf Council Countries (GCC), followed by Malaysia.  

Most of these destination countries offer legal work permits to Nepalese workers. South Korea is becoming another country of destination for Nepalese migrant workers. The recent riot in Balkumari, Lalitpur shows the degree of   attraction such employment destinations have generated.

Who sends remittance? To whom?

Remittance comes from working individuals mainly as a portion of income sent home after saving. A bulk of that comes from hard work in harsh environment or working overtime. This is particularly true for physical workers in UAE and Malaysia.  Those working in these countries send home money for supporting their families – education, health, purchase new home and land etc.

Most people working in these countries are semi-skilled and unskilled physical labourers.  So, their portion of income to send home as remittance is fairly low compared to skilled and professional workers living in US, Canada and UK. However, their contribution appears to be higher owing to larger population of workers and many of these sharing the living cost to save greater percentage of their income.  

According to the world bank data, the remittance received by Nepal in 2022 reached 9.29 billion US dollars. This amounts to 22.8% share of the GDP. But, where is the money going actually?  If we are to believe what Tanka Dahal elucidates in his YouTube channel: ( the remittance is not being used equitably for economic progress of the country.  It is too haphazardly managed to finance the corruptive practices of political figures and allows bureaucratic seepage.  Per The Kathmandu Post (Nov 10, 2023), the remittance inflow increased by 30% in the first quarter of FY 2023-2024. This is a total amount of 2.76 billion US dollars.

The amount is quite significant for smaller countries of Nepal’s size to finance the infrastructure development or improve the social service sectors like health and education.  Interestingly, such data on remittance is not readily available for reference in the website of Nepal Rashtra Bank, the national exchequer.  Why data on remittance is not stored and made available for public reference corroborates to the fact presented by Tanka Dahal.

Stories  about the inability of some Nepali migrant workers to send home money due to very harsh working conditions and utterly low wages are frequently heard and forgotten.   Also, such unskilled workers are prone to scams and fall victims to dishonest ‘Labour Lords’ (the contractors and subcontractors). So, those semi-literate and unskilled workers live in dire conditions without getting fair wages to save and return home. Many of these are living in quagmires of debt in UAE and Malaysia, unable to save any and unwilling to return home empty handed. Domestic violence and sexual exploitation persists. However, the exuberance and excitement of their kins in Nepal for the chance to fly overseas is ever growing.

On the other spectrum of overseas employment are professionals, diplomatic employees, students and other visa holders with work permits living in the US, Australia and Canada.  This segment of population is not insignificant to send home dollars, though a tiny portion of their earnings. In fact, successful businessmen living in these countries often times contribute a large chunk of earning in case of national emergencies like Melamchi flood, earthquake of 2015 and recent earthquake in Karnali region. The NRNA forms another giving bowl in such charitable works besides a few of its wealthy founders’ investment in social sectors or profiting from shares in large multibillion companies.

Remittance for Charitable purpose

Inspired by the philanthropic activities abroad, some Nepali social activists have set up small philanthropic organizations- as community based organizations or small private foundations.  Such organizations have mostly targeted children and women for providing education and empowerment programs. However, these  organizations do not have a well-organized model of fundraisers for charitable giving, but individual contributors support for the cause they are familiar with or the recipient group is in their home village. Punya Foundation has been supporting children affected by 2015 earthquake in Sindhupaalchok, Dhading and Kathmandu. The support mostly comes from generous individuals of close friends and family.  A small Nepalese society in Kentucky did a fundraising on gofundme platform to help the earthquake victims in western Nepal. But, the support did not flow in as anticipated.  The group collected money worth little over two hundred thousand Nepali Rupees and decided to support the health needs of victims. 

Nepalese artists venture on routine visits to developed countries with a package of their musical show, fundamentally to collect the bounty of dollars. Krishna Kadel recently visited homes of elderly people in Harrisburg and enticed people to give him dollars. Obviously, people wanted to be part of his charitable work, which is in fact not an organized act, nor his popular show “Indreni” registered for doing charitable works. So, philanthropy in Nepalese context is grossly misunderstood and such deeds misrepresented.

I have also known about the Samata school in Nepal being supported by such charitable donations. Support to fund the schools is known to be generated by Nepalese living abroad by forming a Samata Senate.

Remittance by Gurkhas

The Gurkha soldiers working and living abroad has contributed so much to the remittance that they form indispensable part to buttress Nepalese economy. It is hard to find a verified data of their monetary contribution, yet several physical and financial structures established by support of active and former Gurkha soldiers speak a lot about the volume of remittance they sent.  They have established financial institutions, operated businesses and super stores, paid handsome fees to fancy boarding schools of urban areas to support education of children, and invested in other social enterprises. They are probably the biggest donors for any charitable work in case of national emergencies or dedicated supporter to the visiting Nepalese artists.

Remittance after 2008

Soon after the resettlement of Bhutanese refugees in the eight different countries of Americas, Australia and Europe, these people began to send back tiny portions of their earning to Nepal and Bhutan. At the beginning, the money to Nepal was mostly wired to refugee camps to support the families who  remained back. After 2012, the money goes to several business owners in Nepal as more resettled people started their small businesses.  A grocery store in Louisville, Kentucky wires roughly two thousand dollars every three months to get items from Nepal. However, it is unknown whether this kind of remittance generated by resettled refugees is accounted for or even acknowledged for contribution to national economy.

The biggest of such remittance was injected to entertainment sector by Intranational Welfare and Support Foundation of America, which spewed dollars luxuriously that showed power even to glue the prime minister of Nepal on an entertainment show for four long night hours.

Remittance as “pillar of economy”?

‘Remittance is the pillar of Nepal’s economy’ is a cliché often overstated. But how is that translated into actual economic growth is not documented transparently.  Some metrics are used here and there, and growth is basically depicted as rise in percentage of GDP share. But, the value of remittance in minimizing the income disparity or poverty, in improving the social sectors as health and education, in cultivating social harmony has been overlooked.

On the other hand, remittance has contributed to improving lifestyle of village folks too, yet that improvement is more at the cost of environmental resources, causing fragmentation of fertile agricultural land, rapid migration from rural to urban or hills/mountains to flat lands of Terai and disorganized urban proliferation. Thus, the social well-being of Nepalese society is far-fetched even when there is consistent growth in remittance.

Had the remittance been used wisely and equitably with valid policy instruments, it should have plugged the gap of income poverty to a greater extent than what is seen today. Obviously, the corrupt practices institutionalized all levels of Nepalese society have siphoned the money to somewhere else, and have benefitted already wealthy and powerful section who employ tactics to fatten their purse. 

(Louisville, KY USA)