IMTC LATAM 2017 Afterthoughts

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Never before in an IMTC Conference we have had so many representatives from such a large number of sectors of society: politicians, ex-politicians, researchers, academics, pollsters, migration specialists, opinion makers, journalists, social workers, representatives of NGOs, cooperatives, “Cajas” (community banks), workers’ banks, entrepreneurs, remittance companies directives and commercial bank executives.

I think that three factors contributed to this outcome. The first…

Factors that contributed to this outcome.

First, the increasing importance of remittances within the national economies of Guatemala (13% of GDP), Honduras (20%) and El Salvador (17%), and the awareness of the state and the society in general of this importance.
Second, the Trump factor that has caused a lot of anxiety, concern, alarm and has unified the region in defense of their interests generating wild speculation about what will be the shape of things to come.
The third factor is the press coverage of the event, fueled by the two factors mentioned before.

Panels and round tables

The panels and round tables were very rich in comments and information; the diversity of criteria and the different points of view gave the sessions depth and insight. Most important, in my point of view, was the recognition that remittances are the link that unites all these sectors of the economy and society in general.

When remittance companies, mobile financial service providers, popular financial institutions and commercial banks took to the stage, each one explained the challenges that it faces. Regulations causes disparities and favor one provider over the others in the provision of remittance services. Profitability factors force banks and companies to make decisions that sometimes may not be “popular” (when a bank stops providing remittance services) but that respond to low margins, high compliance costs, different target market for its services, etc.

The presence of officials of the Central Bank of Guatemala and the Financial Superintendence in these forums can help them achieve a greater understanding of remittances, the remittance service providers (RSPs) and their importance.

The Trump effect

Speculations on the Trump effect were mentioned in several sessions. A round table soundly analyzed the rhetoric vs. the possibilities and the potential effects (deportations, taxing of remittances, restrictions to migrants) vs. the US economy reality and the legal complexities.

A consensus came with comments from participants that these anti-migrant policies in the US come at a time when the US economy needs more migrant labor to continue strengthening the economy. If this situation had occurred at a time of crisis – such as the 2008-9 crisis, the situation would be alarming. It is possible that the need for migrant labor prevents the large deportations promised by the new administration.

In search of solutions

IMTC LATAM in Antigua showed that all remittances service providers cannot be far removed from the complex reality of their clients: the migrants who send money and their families. If we do not come up with solutions that include all sectors, we will continue to cover with “band aids” the deep injuries that chaotic human migration causes. And in this century, with population growing in poor countries and declining in rich countries, with anti-migrant propaganda to win elections and with the fears of globalization, all involved must work as a team to solve the problems of today and those to come.

I believe that the institutions that provide remittance services should take a more proactive role in the migration challenges that we face. The Industry Associations should also discuss where they stand on this debate. We have to be part of the solution. We are the service that unites all the sectors that serve – and care for, the migrants and their families.

I hope that when you read this note, if it generates any idea or comments, you will go ahead and send it to us. You can also do it here, in or Linkedin group post.
e deportations promised by the new administration.