Inward remittances through state-owned Bank of Ceylon (BOC), which holds the major share in Sri Lanka’s remittances market, grew 46% to Rs.108 billion from Rs.74 billion during the first five months of 2010 in all currencies, according to bank Chairman Gamini Wickramasinghe.
He revealed that the bank recorded Rs. 201 billion in inward remittances in 2010 and the target this year is Rs.241 billion. "Inward remittances are growing because Sri Lankan expatriates are sending hard currencies for savings and investments,” he said.
He told the Business Times that while growth in remittances from the Middle East has slightly slowed down, money from countries like the US, Canada Switzerland, Norway, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore increased during this period. The reasons for the slowing down of inward remittances from the Middle East was the turmoil in Libya, Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, and Lebanon, and the reduction in new recruitments of Sri Lankans for Middle East jobs in 2011 and some workers returning to the island, he said.
A significant feature during this period was that Tamil expatriates are sending increased funds for their friends and families in the North and East, as well as to the schools, churches, temples (hindu), and other charitable organizations, Mr. Wickramasinghe revealed. The Bank of Ceylon has been able to convince Sri Lankan expatriates overseas to remit their money through banks without using the hawala alternative remittance system.
He said around 40,000 displaced persons in the North who lived in the Manik farm IDP camp have opened new accounts with the BOC and another 40,000 already had accounts. The bank has successfully brought the community in the North to the formal commercialbanking stream by providing access to funding, safekeeping of valuables and facilitating entry for entrepreneurship activities.
He said that relatives of most of these displaced are living abroad and the bank has been able to get their details maintaining close relations with them. Over Rs.1 billion has been deposited in the bank by these 80,000 displaced persons, he said. Five ATMs were installed for their benefit, he said.