One year and eight months into operation, RemitBhutan has recorded a total of USD 3.5M inward remittances by non-resident Bhutanese.

RemitBhutan is a platform facilitated by Royal Monetary Authority (RMA) for non-resident Bhutanese to operate foreign currency accounts with any authorised bank in Bhutan. It was launched in September 2016.

According to figures from RMA, as of May 2018, 1,327 accounts were opened with the banks and 17 more applications were under review.

Of the total remittances of USD 3.5M, about 43 percent was sourced from Australia followed by Africa with 21 percent, and North America with 12 percent. In terms of currency composition, out of the total number of accounts opened, about 71 percent of accounts were in USD, 17 percent in Australian dollar and 12 percent in Euro. The inward flow from Africa is mainly from the accounts of armed personnel in UN peacekeeping mission.

When RemitBhutan marked its first anniversary in September last year, the country received over USD 2M in remittances from about 850 Bhutanese living abroad.

This means that in a span of eight months, inward remittances through the RemitBhutan channel increased by USD 1.5M and number of accounts by 477.

While RMA has set a target of USD 1M in the first year, this target was achieved within eight months. The foreign currency accounts with local banks increased from 637 in May 2017 to 850 in September 2017.

With more Bhutanese going abroad to study and work, RMA stated that RemitBhutan is one of the incentives to secure their savings within the country.

Bhutanese living abroad can open a foreign currency account without any charge and zero balance. The only cost is the remittance charges that clients have to pay to the host banks abroad.

Once the account is credited with foreign currency, all facilities like online shopping, remittance to other local and international banks and card facilities are provided. The debit cards availed from foreign currency accounts can also be used across the globe.

Foreign account holders can hold or convert to local currency as they wish. In case the clients decide to convert and save in a fixed deposit, there is tax waiver.

RMA in its recently published monetary policy statement stated that RemitBhutan continues to promote financial inclusiveness and nurture saving habits among the non-resident Bhutanese.

The Central Bank also expects the inward flow of foreign currency to gain momentum with increasing number of youth going abroad to work.

Tshering Dorji