By Devin Jayasundera
In order to draw in more foreign remittances, Bank of Ceylon launched its NRFC Draw and Cash Remits competition, aimed at rewarding and encouraging savings of expatriate workers. This scheme would also provide the opportunity to increase foreign reserves in the country.
“Last year there was US$ 4 billion of inward remittances coming to the country and out of this, 47% was handled by the BOC,” stated BOC Chairman Dr. Gamini Wickramasinghe.
He noted that the country had the capability and potential to double its existing remittances and stated that in order do so, there should be effective schemes and official channels to attract foreign currency.
He also highlighted the importance of having adequate foreign reserves to fast track the growth of the economy in the new age of development of the country.
“Petroleum is our biggest expenditure and most of the consumer products from pharmaceuticals to food are imported. In this situation we have to pay in dollars and therefore it is best to have enough foreign exchange to have a healthy stable foreign exchange rate for importing goods,” he said.
“Our labourers abroad do a yeoman service to the country by sending foreign currency, they are the ones who send the ‘real money’ that the country needs and in comparison doctors and engineers who are going abroad are the ones who take more money out of Sri Lanka than sending it in to country,” confessed Dr. Wickramasinghe.
“With regard to inward remittances, the issue that we face today is that whatever the foreign currency that is sent to Sri Lanka is changed in to rupees by the recipients and only 5% of that money remains in the NRFC account,” said Dr. Wickramasinghe.
“We are hoping to increase this to the billion dollar mark in the NRFC balances by the end of this year. To do that we need to encourage people to keep the foreign currency in their NRFC accounts so that the whole country could benefit from it.”
He added that the NRFC Wasana Draw and Cash Remits competitions would give additional rewards for NRFC account holders and would hopefully enable the expansion of the country’s foreign reserve base.
Dr. Wickramasinghe also stated that BOC, which has branches in London, Male and Chennai, was hoping to expand its services for Sri Lankan expatriates in the Americas and Europe in the near future.
This year through NRFC Wasana Draw and Cash Remits competition, two prizes of one million, 40 prizes of Rs. 50,000 and 60 prizes of Rs. 25,000 are up for grabs by two super draws, to be held this December and July next year. In addition, 50 prizes of Rs. 10,000 each would be awarded every month to NRFC account holders in a monthly draw.