Remittances are down and Money Transfers are up?

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Last week, The Global Knowledge Partnership on Migration and Development (KNOMAD1) published its Migration and Remittances Brief  #27 (April 2017) prepared by Dilip Ratha, Supriyo De, Sonia Plaza and the rest of the team2 of the Migration and Remittances Unit of the Global Indicators Group of the World Bank.

As I mention in the IMTC conferences, these great briefs are the basis for the information I use for my presentations and courses and by far the best information that is collected in the world on remittances.

This is Part 1 of a compendium/overview of what I find more important for the industry in this Brief; I hope it’s a helpful guide in case you have not seen it yet.

Remittances are down and Money Transfers are up?

I want to add that the information in the briefs has a development emphasis and as the International Money Transfers & Payments industry expands to serve other migrants3 and more B2B transfers are handled (including P2B – airtime, bill payments, etc.), the remittances information seems to represent a lesser part of the overall business volume that the industry is managing4. And that is where my question comes from: Remittances are down and Money Transfers are up?. This is true especially for information coming out of the growth of digital services that seem to be growing, not from the clients of Brick & Mortar operations, but from clients that are moving in from other service providers, most notably banks. Informal flows are always an issue, as you will see in the brief, even if some estimates in the brief take some of these flows in consideration. All formal flows are also not being recorded; there is certainly a large number of transfers that the industry is serving and those volumes seem to fall in this non-recorded category.

I am glad the brief has a section on Data & Forecasting Methodology (http://bit.ly/2p5nfKg), which is an extract from the Migration and Remittances Factbook 2016 (http://bit.ly/2oU4JJ4) relating to the data on remittances cited in this Brief but  I have to admit that the formulas presented fall out of my understanding capacity.

Here is for you a summary of the brief with comments as well as indications where in the brief you find further information. The links go directly to the sections and I am referring to.

GLOBAL VIEW

The Brief states that remittances to developing countries declined by an estimated 2.4% to $429 billion in 2016, after a decline of 1 percent in 2015. World Remittances (including all countries) declined by an estimated 1.2% to $575 billion. All regions declined except Latin America and the Caribbean where volumes grew by 6.9%. Largest declines were seen in South Asia (-6.4%) and Sub-Saharan Africa (-6.1%). Some of the declines in remittances are further accentuated when expressed in US dollars because of the weakening of the euro, the British pound and the ruble against the US dollar. Low oil prices and weak economic growth in the GCC countries5 and the Russian Federation. More information on the brief: http://bit.ly/2pF645r

SOUTH ASIA REGION (SAR)

The South Asia region saw a decline of 6.4% in 2016. India, the largest remittance-receiving country worldwide, had an 8.9% decline, receiving around $62.7 billion. While in Bangladesh, remittances declined by 11.1% and in Nepal, 6.7% decline (but that is after the large increase in 2015 of 14.3% ( earthquake) both Pakistan saw a 2.8% growth (after a 12% growth in 2015) and Sri Lanka, 3.9 % growth. In Nepal remittances are 29.7% of GDP. More information on the region here: http://bit.ly/2pELuCe.
These Indian Government estimates of Indians abroad is an interesting information for money transfer companies available in this document: http://bit.ly/2qAufiI

EAST ASIA AND THE PACIFIC (EAP)

The East Asia and the Pacific region saw a decline of 1.2% in 2016 to $125.8 billion compared with a growth of 3.8 % in 2015 to $127.3 billion. Flows to the Philippines remained buoyant growing by 4.9% in 2016 to 29.9 billion (above the 4.4% growth in 2015), a product of the diversification of migrant occupations and destinations spearheaded by the Filipino Government. Indonesia saw a decline of 4.4% in 2016 induced by new emigration restrictions as part of the government’s policy to protect Indonesians employed overseas (mainly women in the domestic sector)6 . Is important to note that small island countries such as Tonga, Samoa, Marshall Isl., Tuvalu and Kiribati receive more than 10% of GDP is remittances. More information: http://bit.ly/2pETqUg

EUROPE AND CENTRAL ASIA (ECA)

The Europe and Central Asia region saw a decline of 4.6% in 2016 to $34.8 billion, which is an improvement of sorts, following the large decrease of 2015 of 22.1 % and 5.3% in 2014 from the all-time high in 2013 of $54.6 billion (30% fall). The decrease has been mainly due to the Russian Federation’s economic adjustment to low oil prices and international sanctions, and the slight depreciation of the euro against the dollar. This has hit hard countries like Kyrgyz Rep. (34.5% of GDP), Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan (26.9% of GDP). The inflows to Russia and Ukraine are the largest in the region, $6.2 billion each.
More information: http://bit.ly/2psOUYr

LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN (LAC)

The Latin America and the Caribbean region saw a growth of 6.9% reaching $73 billion in 2016 slighty higher than the growth for 2015 of 6.0% to $68.3 billion. The US-Mexico corridor, the largest in the world, grew 8.8%7 in 2016, Salvador 11%, Guatemala 13%. Paraguay saw a big jump (21.8% increase)8 mainly flows moving from the informal sector to the formal sector as Argentina made changes in their monetary policies. You can read Manuel Orozco’s Latin American Remittances 2016 brief here: http://bit.ly/2pTXReI. Strengthening of employment levels in the United States are the major causes of these increases even with the deportation increases.
More information: http://bit.ly/2p5nyVB

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA (MENA)

Remittances to the Middle East and North Africa region saw a decline of 4.4% in 2016 to $48.8 billion, a second-year decline after the decrease of 6.1% in 2015. The decrease reflects the GCC slowdown and declining flows to Egypt due to exchange rate misalignments prior to the currency float9. The Egyptian Central Bank stated that remittances had risen 15.4% in December 2016 from $1.4 billion in December 2015 after the Nov. 3, 2016 floating of the Egyptian pound10. Remittances from the euro area, from where the Maghreb countries (Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia) receive most of their remittances, have remained steady.
More information: http://bit.ly/2oUkeQU

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA (SSA)

Remittances to the Sub-Saharan Africa region saw a decline of 6.1% in 2016 to $33 billion after a very modest decrease in 2015 (0.4%). Besides the slow economic growth of remittance sending countries and oil prices as the causes for the declines, the brief mentions the diversion of remittances to informal channels due to exchange rate regimes, especially Nigeria where everyone that managed remittances to that country in 2016 saw their volumes drop by the government actions11. While Nigeria received approx. $19 billion (or $20.8 B), it was also reported that the actual figure is about $35 billion12. For Nigeria this is only 5% of GDP while countries such as Liberia, Comoros and The Gambia remittances are over 20% of GDP. Ghana, the 2nd country after Nigeria in total volume of remittances received $2 billion, vastly exceeding the revenue the country generates from taxes and international aid13.
More information: http://bit.ly/2pCx0kf

FOOTNOTES

  1. KNOMAD is supported by a multi-donor trust fund established by the World Bank. Germany’s Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Sweden’s Ministry of Justice, Migration and Asylum Policy, and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC)
  2. The #27 Brief was prepared by Dilip Ratha, Supriyo De, Sonia Plaza, Kirsten Schuettler, Ganesh Seshan, Hanspeter Wyss, and Nadege Desiree Yameogo of the Migration and Remittances Unit of the Global Indicators Group, and Eung Ju Kim of the Development Prospects Group of the World Bank. Useful comments and contributions were received from the World Bank regional chief economists, Global Practices, and country teams, in particular from Enrique Blanco Armas, Guillermo Raul Beylis, Emmanuel Lartey, Manjula Luthria, Marco Nicoli, and Frederico Gil Sanders. Thanks to Rita Ramalho and David Rosenblatt for helpful comments and suggestions.
  3. Migrants from developed countries usually younger as well as employees working from their homes
  4. I cannot confidently estimate the percentage that remittances make of the overall industry volume. I think it is probably around 75% although other industry analysts think that is less than 60%.
  5. Gulf Cooperation Council: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates
  6. It is important to note that Indonesia, as Philippines, has an Agency for the Placement and Protection of Indonesian Migrant Workers, known as BNP2TKI, trying to vouch for and defend Indonesian Migrant owrkers abroad.
  7. From the brief: Remittances to Mexico were driven by continued improvement in the U.S. labor market and the sharp peso depreciation (down 19 percent against the dollar in 2016). Weakness in the peso seemed to underpin a sizable increase in remittances in the short term last year, with remittances spiking in January, February, May, September, and November, all months when the peso saw sharp depreciations versus the U.S. dollar.
  8. From Manuel Orozco’s Latin American Remittances 2016 brief (http://bit.ly/2pTXReI): “The first factor [for Paraguay’s increase] is a possible increase in the formalization of remittances sent from Argentina after the removal of “el cepo” (“the clamp”), the currency controls put in place in 2011 by former President Cristina Kirchner. Another factor explaining growth may be the organic growth of volumes from Spain and the United States to Paraguay.
  9. From the brief: Given the devaluation pressures on the Egyptian pound and the wide gap between the official and black market exchange rates during most of 2016, migrants either delayed sending remittances, as they expected further depreciation of the Egyptian pound, or sent money through informal channels. The floating of the Egyptian pound in November 2016 led to an increase in official remittance inflows of 11% in the last quarter of 2016.
  10. Remittances from expatriate Egyptians rise after pound float http://reut.rs/2qupsjE
  11. From the Brief: “Nigeria witnessed a significant decline in foreign exchange revenue, caused by the fall in oil prices, which resulted in tighter capital controls and a “managed” exchange rate policy.30 These changes resulted in large black market premiums in the foreign exchange markets.31 These factors diverted a large part of formal remittances to informal channels.
  12. Nigeria: Diaspora Remittance Hits U.S.$35 Billion in 2016 http://bit.ly/2p4GT9s
  13. Tax and Aid reached a little less that 50 Million http://bit.ly/2qp0AMX