Non-resident Bhutanese, key to financial inclusiveness

Remit-Bhutan will be launched in Perth and Canberra 

Economy: Over 4,000 Bhutanese working and studying in Australia have only 32 foreign currency accounts with the banks in the country today.

However only 18 have made deposits into their foreign currency accounts facilitated by Remit-Bhutan, which was launched about four months ago.

Remit-Bhutan is a platform facilitated by the Royal Monetary Authority (RMA) for non-resident Bhutanese to operate foreign currency accounts with any authorised bank in Bhutan. The initiative was also launched in New York in October in the presence of more than 200 non-resident Bhutanese.

As of date, 488 foreign currency accounts have been opened with local banks, mostly from the United States and the Middle East. The banks received more than USD 0.5 million of deposits so far. So a large part of the Australian market is yet to be captured.

To encourage more Bhutanese living in Australia to open foreign currency accounts, a team from the RMA, Bank of Bhutan, Bhutan National Bank and T-bank will visit Perth and Canberra from February 13 to 18 to formally launch the Remit-Bhutan system.

The RMA governor, Dasho Penjore said that with the waiver of tax on fixed deposits, savings in Bhutan has become more attractive and that the commercial banks in the country are offering higher deposit rates compared to those offered in international markets.

“Therefore, along the lines of wider national savings campaign strategy, there is further need to sensitise the advantages of savings offered in Bhutan to larger non-resident Bhutanese,” he said. “This is extended financial services to include non-resident Bhutanese in the financial inclusion policy and strategy.”

With more Bhutanese going abroad as students, for UN peacekeeping missions and through overseas employment scheme, Dasho Penjore said Remit-Bhutan could serve as a common financial network.

The ease of opening such accounts where Bhutanese working abroad can save their foreign currencies in a secured place with no tax, the governor said; “it is too good to be true.”

While some Bhutanese workers have raised concerns that the facility will be used by the government to keep an eye on their income, an official from the Central Bank assured that full confidentiality of the accounts is guaranteed.

Under the confidentiality agreement of the banks, only the account holder and the bank have access to the respective accounts, unless the account holder(s) authorise someone on their behalf. Apart from this, the Central Bank may have the authority to access the accounts in suspicion of illegal transactions.

This extended service, the governor said is critical to generate inclusive growth.

Contribution from the foreign remittance to the country’s GDP is very marginal today. Should Remit-Bhutan help swell the inward remittances from the non-resident Bhutanese, the country could achieve a new dimension of economic growth, which is Gross National Product (GNP).

GDP is the total value of goods and services the nation produce over a specific time. The net income receipts from abroad when added to GDP provides a figure reflecting the country’s GNP.

Tshering Dorji

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