Permanent settlers abroad keep OFW money flow up — economist

by JEREMAIAH M. OPINIANO
www.ofwjournalism.net


MANILA — GROWTH rates of remittances are due to sustained sending from two types of overseas Filipinos, University of Santo Tomas economics professor Alvin Ang said.

These are residency permit holders and naturalized citizens in Japan, Germany, Norway, Greece, the Netherlands and Canada. They are also in countries whose demand for Filipino workers is next to nil.

Ang describes these Filipinos as “non-traditional” remittance senders. But they have helped the Philippines weather the storm of possible remittance declines as a result of the global economic crisis, according to him.

“You wonder why they are sending more money at this time. Or first of all, why them?” Ang told the OFW Journalism Consortium.

Permanent migrants are sending more money now regardless of what jobs they have overseas. They include Filipinos holding residency permits doing domestic work for foreign households and who have their families with them, Ang says.

Data on the first six months of remittance inflows from Filipinos in 239 countries and territories saw the country receiving US$8.479 billion, higher than the US$8.241 billion for the same six-month period last year.

Prior to the events that triggered a global economic crisis in September last year, Ang predicted that remittances from overseas Filipinos will reach a plateau that, according to him, is within growth range of one to three percent.

True enough, after the first half of the year, the year-on-year remittance growth of 2.89 percent is within his plateau range forecast.

While Ang said he wasn’t surprised with the plateauing and the continued positive growth rates for remittances, what caught his fancy is the volume of remittances from these specific countries.

Non-traditional

FIRST off is Japan, which Ang said, made the entry of overseas performing artists or entertainers doubly stricter since 2005.

However, based on the 16-page report of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Japan’s year-on-year remittance growth rate is higher by 61.56 percent to US$390.3 million as against the US$214.6 million received from this country during the first half of 2008.

Germany, known to be a destination country for Filipino women marrying German nationals, posted a 55.27-percent growth. The Philippines got US$228.7 million from Germany during the first half of this year.

Remittance from Greece, known for money sent by seafarers and domestic workers was smaller compared to Germany at US$92.7 million. Still, money flow from Greece was at a 52.08-percent year-on-year growth rate. Likewise, money from the Netherlands is smaller at US$73.1 million but the year-on-year growth rate is 94.16 percent.

Filipino seafarers sending money from Norway were primarily responsible for not just the US$177 million sent to the Philippine as of June this year, but also for the 63.99 percent year-on-year growth rate.

These countries made up for the nearly negative growth rate of remittances from Filipinos in the United Kingdom (minus-0.70 percent), and from the declines of flows coming from Italy (minus-26.53 percent)—traditionally, the two highest-remitting countries in Europe.

Filipinos from these countries are among the “non-traditional” remittance sources for the Philippines, especially so that many of remitters have brought their families with them, Ang said.

As of 2007, data on the stock estimates of overseas Filipinos show that the United States alone has 2,517,833 permanent migrants and the whole of Europe only has 284,987 permanent migrants.

Remittance inflows coming from the US continue to slump with a minus-13.13 percent growth rate. The US$3.510 billion that came from the US during the first six months was lower than the US$4.041 billion during the same period last year.

Canada, known for its demand for Filipino workers and for its visible number of permanent residents (410,626), posted a 58.25-percent growth rate given the US$913.3 million that came in as of June 2009.

Defy

ANG thinks Filipino permanent residents in these countries may be getting ready to return to the Philippines and got scared of what might happen to them “so they are sending more money”.

Knowing also the Filipino remitter’s mentality, especially when additional incomes arrive, the overseas Filipino will send money “no matter what.”

Recruiter Lito Soriano of LBS e-Recruitment Solutions, on the other hand, thinks the government’s improved system of capturing bank and non-bank remittance inflows contributed to the current remittance uptick. Soriano, himself a former overseas worker, though, projects remittance growth for 2009 to reach only 1.5 percent.

But he said he’s also “worried” because it took the country five years for remittances to be above 1998 levels (US$7.578 billion was recorded in 2003) and there are signs remittance growth rates in terms of volume and value are slipping to the single-digit levels.

Ang said while the World Bank forecast a decline in remittances, he forecast a five-percent growth rate in remittance inflows this year.

The forecast is slightly above his plateau range but lower than BSP Governor Amando Tetangco’s double-digit growth forecast.

Tetangco’s forecast defies World Bank projections that the global economic crisis in developed countries (where most of the world’s migrants are) will hit on migrants’ remittances to developing countries.

Global remittance flows, the World Bank predicts, will decline by 7.3 percent this year. The sources of risk to the remittance outlook include uncertainty about the duration of the crisis and unpredictable movements in exchange rates.

Flows to Latin American countries (including Mexico) and Sub-Saharan African countries are projected to decline while money to South Asia and Southeast Asia “have been strong but are expected to decline somewhat,” the World Bank report said.

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OFW Journalism Consortium