Remittances to developing countries to stay robust this year

KARACHI: International migrants from developing countries are expected to send $436 billion in remittances to their home countries this year, despite more deportations from some host countries, says World Bank’s latest report.

According to a release from Washington, this year’s remittance flows to developing countries will be an increase of 7.8 percent over the 2013 volume of $404 billion, rising to $516 billion in 2016, according to revised projections from the latest issue of the brief. Global remittances, including those to high-income countries, are estimated at $581 billion this year, from $542 billion in 2013, rising to $681 billion in 2016.

Remittances remain a key source of external resource flows for developing countries, far exceeding official development assistance and more stable than private debt and portfolio equity flows. For many developing countries, remittances are an important source of foreign exchange, surpassing earnings from major exports, and covering a substantial portion of imports. For example, in Nepal, remittances are nearly double the country’s revenues from exports of goods and services, while in Sri Lanka and the Philippines, they are over 50 per cent and 38 percent, respectively. In India, remittances during 2013 were $70 billion, more than the $65 billion earned from the country’s flagship software services exports. In Uganda, remittances are double the country’s income from its main export of coffee.

“Remittances have become a major component of the balance of payments of nations. India led the chart of remittance flows, receiving $70 billion last year, followed by China with $60 billion and the Philippines with $25 billion. There is no doubt that these flows act as an antidote to poverty and promote prosperity. Remittances and migration data are also barometers of global peace and turmoil and this is what makes World Bank’s KNOMAD initiative to organize, analyze, and make available these data so important,” said Kaushik Basu, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist of the World Bank.

The brief notes that while the medium term outlook for remittances is strong, downside risks loom mainly from migrants’ return to their home countries as a result of conflict or deportation from host countries. Last year saw an intensification of deportations, with more than 370,000 migrants sent back to their home countries from Saudi Arabia alone in the five months since November 2013. Many of these migrants were from Ethiopia, Egypt and Yemen. In the US, over 368,000 people (mostly migrants seeking entry into the US and apprehended at the border) were deported to their home countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), particularly Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

In addition, asylum-seekers have surged, as a result of strife and conflict.  According to a recent report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), asylum claims in 44 industrialized countries reached 612,700 in 2013, a 28 percent increase over 2012, and the second highest level in the past 20 years. In Europe, the number of asylum applications rose by 32 percent to 484,560 in 2013, with Germany the largest recipient of asylum requests (109,600). The vast majority of asylum applicants are from Syria, Russia, Serbia and Kosovo.

This trend is accompanied by a rise in anti-immigration sentiment, which appears to be gaining momentum in several European countries, including France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. In Switzerland, a referendum held in February 2014 on imposing immigration quotas passed, albeit with a slim majority.

During 2013, remittance flows were generally robust in all regions except LAC, and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), where the two largest remittance-recipient countries, Mexico and Egypt, saw declines in remittance inflows, due in part to removals and deportations from the US and Saudi Arabia, respectively. However, both countries retained their rankings in the top 10 remittance-receiving countries globally.

India remained in the top spot, with $70 billion in remittances in 2013. Other large recipients were China ($60 billion), the Philippines ($25 billion), Mexico ($22 billion), Nigeria ($21 billion), Egypt ($17 billion), Pakistan ($15 billion), Bangladesh ($14 billion), Vietnam ($11 billion) and Ukraine ($10 billion).

In terms of remittances as a share of GDP, the top recipients were Tajikistan (52 percent), Kyrgyz Republic (31 percent), Nepal and Moldova (both 25 percent), Samoa and Lesotho (both 23 percent), Armenia and Haiti (both 21 percent), Liberia (20 percent) and Kosovo (17 percent).

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