DHAKA - Bangladesh received a record high $14.17 billion in remittances from citizens working overseas in 2012, 16.5 per cent up on 2011, despite a cooling global economy, a senior central bank official said on Saturday.

Remittances brought in $12.165 billion in 2011.

“The country received almost 17 per cent more money from the expatriates despite economic slowdown both in the USA. and countries in the European Union,” said Hassan Zaman, Chief Economist of the Bangladesh Bank.

“Undoubtedly it is a cushion (for) much needed foreign exchange reserves,” he told Reuters.

Overseas recruitment in 2012 grew 22 per cent as around 691,402 job seekers went abroad in 2012, up from 567,505 in 2011, according to the central bank. It has asked all the 15 commercial banks who have exchange units outside the country to make sure their currency rates encourage expatriates to use legal methods of sending money home, Zaman said.

Remittances from about nine million citizens working abroad are critical for the impoverished South Asian nation, which otherwise depends heavily on garment exports which account for 80 per cent of its $25 billion a year export earnings.

Remittances helped boost the country’s foreign exchange reserves to $12.75 billion in December 2012, from $9.63 billion in December 2011.