Lifeline remittances stay steady despite pandemic and recessions – dpa international


Women sending money back to the Philippines from a remittance counter inside Lucky Plaza, a mall popular with the Filipino expat community in Singapore (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Global remittances fell 1.6 per cent last year to 540 billion dollars, a less-than-expected decline in what the World Bank labelled “lifeline” cashflows for millions of people.

The global total, which amounts to around the same as Belgium’s gross domestic product (GDP), held up far better than other economic indicators during the coronavirus pandemic and widespread restrictions on businesses, according to a bank report published on Wednesday.

The bank earlier estimated global GDP shrank 4.3 per cent last year, while foreign investment into low and middle-income countries dropped by 30 per cent.

Remittance levels saw only a small drop due to factors such as “fiscal stimulus” in host countries for migrants, favourable oil prices and exchange rates, as well as increased use of formal and digital sending channels, the bank said.

Heavy fiscal and social outlays was largely beyond the means of less well-off countries, meaning lockdowns and work-from-home rules had a greater economic impact than in Europe or North America, in turn leaving millions of people in countries such as Nepal and the Philippines, which have been hit hard by the virus, to depend on money sent by relatives working overseas.

Wired mostly from migrants in wealthy economies to families in less well-off homelands, the flows were “a critical lifeline for the poor and vulnerable,” the bank said, estimating the total amount last year to have exceeded the combined dollar value of foreign investment into low and middle-income countries and global overseas development assistance.

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