Today I would like to share two things—an amazing World Bank blog and a TEDGlobal 2014 talk filmed Oct 2014 on the subject of remittances. The blogger/speaker is Economist Dilip Ratha. According to his bio page on TED, he “was the first to point out the global and national significance of remittances and their social and economic impact. He is the manager of the Migration and Remittances team at the World Bank and the head of the Global knowledge partnership on migration and development (KNOMAD). He also co-coordinates the G8/G20 Global Remittances Working Group, and is involved in a number of other organizations focusing on remittances”.
The New York Times wrote of him, “No one has done more than Dilip Ratha to make migration and its potential rewards a top-of-the-agenda concern in the world’s development ministries.”
FACTS & FIGURES
In 2013, international migrants sent $413 billion home to families and friends — three times more than the total of global foreign aid (about $135 billion). This money, known as remittances, makes a significant difference in the lives of those receiving it and plays a major role in the economies of many countries. Economist Dilip Ratha describes the promise of these “dollars wrapped with love” and analyzes how they are stifled by practical and regulatory obstacles.
Dilip Ratha has also written a fascinating and enlightening blog with Dame Tessa Jowell titled, ‘It’s time to repeal the remittances “Super Tax” on Africa’. It’s a must read. Here are some excerpts:
Remittances are the shining light of development policy. While debate rages in austerity-hit Western capitals about spending on aid, remittances cost tax-payers nothing. Remittances to developing countries are worth nearly half a trillion dollars – that’s three times the level of aid – and they’re rising fast, quadrupling since the turn of the century. And remittances work. It’s hard to imagine a more efficient targeting system than people sending money home to their own families and the facts bear that out; remittances are linked to improved economic, health and education outcomes. And as if those benefits weren’t enough, remittances are a huge driver of financial inclusion, acting as a gateway to banking for the people sending and receiving them.
But people sending money home to many parts of the world, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, are paying far too much. They face what is, in effect, a remittances ‘super tax’. A worker sending $200 from London to Lagos can pay fees of over 13%, more than fifty percent above the global average. And within Africa it’s even worse, sending money from South Africa to Malawi could cost upwards of 20%. Of course we all expect some fees for financial transactions but there is strong evidence that these costs are excessive and are restricting the poverty-zapping remittances that reach poorer countries. Reducing fees for sub-Saharan Africa to the global average for instance would mean an extra $1.3 billion reaching families in the region.
…Indeed, if the cost of sending remittances could be reduced by just 5 percentage points relative to the value sent, remittance receipts in developing countries would receive over $20 billion dollars more each year than they do now. That amount of money could educate 18 million children and buy enough vaccines to prevent 8 million children dying from diseases like malaria.
To fix this situation, we need action on three fronts.
Below is the TEDGlobal 2014 video.