Friday, November 23, 2007

remittances from the middle east

This a photo of a bat who was on one of my banana trees recently.

I would like to take a moment to relate some of the stories, good and bad from the immediate circle of my staff who have had direct experience of the middle east. I know one cannot generalize from personal stories but one can form opinions from them with possible ways to reduce the problems associated with this.

The government of Sri Lanka spends like there is no tomorrow on the backs of this worker remittances as they are quite prepared to mortgage future remittances in their current quest to spend in a way that even the middle east oil potentates cannot. The rate of remittances from the 2 million workers affects the lives of at least 10 million who live here or at least half the population. The rate of increase of remittances is greater than the rate of increase in the oil price and therefore we are quite able to weather the oil shock in a seemingly cavalier fashion. After all the price of a liter of petrol in Sri Lanka is half that of oil rich UK.

I have changed the real names of the staff to prevent embarrassment in case someone confronts them. Kasun's wife went to Dubai, she got used to the life there, and left Kasun and the children after providing for the children and nothing for Kasun who turned to drink and now needs his kasippu daily and has found a common law woman to live with.

Rahul's mother worked in the Middle East, for 4 years, she saved half her salary and remitted the other half.Her husband an alcoholic from the beginning fritted it away and barely did anything to take care of Rahul and his baby sister.The were looked after by Rahul's maternal grandmother. Shortly after Rahul's mother arrived his father died in his thirties of alcoholism, and the mother spent all her savings, paying off the money lender in the village to whom all the land inherited had been mortgaged so she could get her husbands land back to be able to feed her kids.She is now thankfully able to hold her head up debt free.

Sriyani's brother went to work in Iraq as a security officer for an American company for two years, as he was ex army. He earned about US500 a month which is appallingly low for such a high risk job where the white counterpart earns over ten times that much.Anyway he has sent it to his wife who has helped her family but on his return his family and mother did not get a cent and not even a small gift as his wife controls him by the short and curlies!! His sisters help keep family fires burning working in garment factories in Homagama.

Sapun's mother went to the middle east and did not return. He was only 4 and his elder sister 9. The father brought them up by himself and did not receive any money from her, they have a very hard life in the village but live in a house that is quite nice. They suspect she has returned and is living with someone else. Sapun always believes his mother will come to see him soon.His sister married last year and had a baby.Fortunately his mother's sister who is single and has been in Dubai for over 15 years helps him out by sending money occasionally.

Deerga's wife is in Jordan and was persuaded to send her by a job agent saying she can earn a lot of money. His child is being looked after by his mother while he works for me. He is bitter as he has not heard from her and suspects she is really suffering under harsh working conditions and her employers taken her passport etc. So he is mad with the job agent who made the promises and wants to get even with him!!

Jayakody's wife went to Saudi and left the son and daughter with her mother. Jayakody was not sent any money, any money that was sent was to her mother who helped her family at the expense of Jayakody's kids and Jayakody savs his money I pay him for whatever the kids need. His wife has just returned and she does not want to be with him anymore and wants to return to the middle east at the earliest opportunity and he is heartbroken as he thought they could be a family again! At the moment he is trying to see if the law can help, but I doubt he will get redress and may not even get the custody of the kids which is the least he wants.

Kumara's mother left when he was small and has now lived in the middle east for over 12 years. His kiri amma , I don't know if she is an aunt or grandmother, has brought it up, and she does not have a good relationship with him. His father lives in another village doing a job and he hardly sees him. His mother sent him the money for a three wheeler and sends money frequently so he is not in want except emotionally. He has just joined the army to get away from the home front as he does not like to live with his kiriamma.His trishaw just lies idle for his use when he comes on leave. He has made friends in the army and visits their homes when he is on leave and only comes to his village for a day to see his friends. He has been affected emotionally though he has been well looked after financially.

Sama who worked for me lived in Kuwait for 5 years and her mother took care of both her son and daughter.Her husband also worked in the same household in Kuwait. Due to some incident her husband was fired and they returned and the husband who always had a alcohol problem eventually died before his 45th of cirrohsis of the liver.They had run through whatever savings she had. So after she worked for me she got a job in Cyprus where she now is and saved and married her daughter off in June. She now hopes to save the balance and return next year and have the money as her retirement nest egg little realising how expensive things have got and that she may not have enough to buy a place of her own now.She is also trying to get her son to Cyprus to work as a orange picker or in the agricultural area where they are severly short staffed.

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