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Debt won’t solve Rohingya refugee crisis, but will worsen Bangladesh’s problems: experts

They urged not to accept the World Bank’s $700 million loan offer aimed at local compensation and improving the lives of displaced Rohingyas.

Taking on debt will not solve the Rohingya refugee crisis and is likely to worsen Bangladesh’s challenges, experts claimed at a human chain event titled Equity and Justice Working Group, today (June 8) at the Jatiya Press Club.

They urged not to accept the World Bank’s $700 million loan offer aimed at local compensation and improving the lives of displaced Rohingyas.

The discussion, moderated by Mustafa Kamal Akanda of the COAST Foundation, highlighted that Bangladesh is the first country to offer a loan to deal with a refugee crisis.

Experts expressed concern about the negative impact of such loans on the country’s economy and local host communities.

Rezaul K Chowdhury, Chief Moderator of Equity Bd, highlighted the pressing issue for Bangladesh: “Bangladesh has sought relief for the damage caused by the Rohingyas to the host community. But the World Bank is offering help to the Rohingyas. But Bangladesh needs loans to cover the damage to the host community. This is a very urgent issue for Bangladesh.”

Omour Faruk Bhuiya of BDCSO Process added that Bangladesh’s high interest expenditure would make additional borrowing difficult. “There is no precedent for taking out a loan to address the refugee crisis anywhere in the world. Taking a loan from ADB and the World Bank for the refugee crisis will be a heavy burden,” he said.

Mamun Kabir of Water Keepers Bangladesh noted: “During the arrival of the Rohingya in 2017, the price of goods and rent of houses in Teknaf, Ukhia and Cox’s Bazar increased dramatically. The people in those areas had to bear this pressure. people are not getting help now, that is inhumane,” he added.

The discussion also touched on the global humanitarian aid gap, with the gap between financing needs and revenues reaching $33.6 billion in 2023. The humanitarian organizations’ funding request for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh that year was $918 million, but only $230 million – 25% of the request – was received.

A survey by the Cox’s Bazar CSO-AGO Forum (CCNF) shows that only a quarter of aid directly benefits the Rohingya community. In light of these challenges, speakers urged humanitarian organizations to reduce management costs to maximize aid efficiency.

The expert consensus was clear: loans are not the answer to the refugee crisis. Instead, they called for sustainable, planned economic strategies and more efficient aid distribution to support both Rohingya refugees and affected local communities.