Friday, April 13, 2007

The current analysis of the remittances takes the eyes away from much bigger issues

The press announces that “Migrants send home $62bn to Latin America and Caribbean” and the commentaries that generally follow evidence how much, by focusing the attention on the remittances as such and which could in fact be compared to the cash dividends of the corporate world, the development banks might be missing so much of the real story.

If these remittances represent 15% of what the migrants earn then the real underlying economic activity is worth more than $420bn, and a country such as El Salvador has just as much GNP produced by its emigrants abroad than the GDP produced in el Salvador; and who is to argue that someone from El Salvador is less El Salvadoran just because he works abroad.

This calculation does also evidence that way too much detailed and expensive attention has been given to the analysis of what channels are used for the remittances, and the costs of these transfers. Frankly, in my book, this amounts almost to a lack of respect for the migrants since indeed these transfers do certainly represent the least of their thousands of problems and hardships.

Let us hope the development agencies will soon start looking at the real issues, such as how to increase the earning potential of these millions of sacrificed migrants; such as helping in the development of temporary migrant worker programs that satisfy the interests and meet the concerns of all parties; and to study whether they migrants could be better off reinvesting their savings in their own and their children’s educations instead of perhaps only ending up providing temporary support to their ineffective national governments who most probably were the main cause of why they had to emigrate in the first place; and to the rate of that heart-drain by which they might start to forget their homeland and how to slow it down.

Now, while analyzing all these issues, let us please never forget that all these remittances are of a very private nature; no different from any money a son could send his mother in a developed country; and so we need all to be extremely respectful of that.