Dhaka, January 8:

Bangladeshis living and working abroad sent home a record $5.46 billion in 2006, a year-on increase of 28 per cent, the country’s central bank said today.

The figure is more than $1.21 billion more than the amount Bangladesh’s huge expatriate community sent home in 2005, executive director Yasin Ali of Bangladesh Bank said.

“The record rise is mainly due to more people going abroad with jobs last year, and increased inflow through formal banking channels,” he said.

The record remittances also pushed up the country’s foreign exchange reserve to $3.97 billion, the highest since the country’s became independent in 1971.

According to official figures, more than five million Bangladeshis now live or work abroad, mainly in oil-rich Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.

Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in the world with a population of 144 million, counts on the inflow of foreign exchange to fund its imports.

According to a report, remittances has been a major source of income for the South Asian Nations, including Bangladesh.