Thursday, August 14, 2003

Family Remittances

In recent publications of the World Bank and other multilateral organizations, there has been emphasis on the significance of family remittances for many developing countries, such as El Salvador, where these remittances reached $1,900 million dollars in 2001. This phenomenon has many bankers scrambled, trying to find out ways to attract part of the financial gains that such an influx represents, ranging from transfer services to the issuance of bonds backed by the projections of future remittances.

Likewise, they are studying the impact on a poor country when hundreds of thousands of its workers could be sent to developed countries on a temporary visa, where they could have access to greater remunerations which could even have a greater economic potential than the long-promised agricultural openness and liberalization.

After allowing their markets to be captured by external suppliers, after allowing free flow of resources, after forcing themselves to respect foreign income sources, such as intellectual property rights and patents, and finally, after many of its educated professionals have been captured by better economic gains somewhere else, poor countries, it would seem, have all the reasons to request greater access to global markets for their unskilled workforce.

Nevertheless, during our technical discussions, we should not forget the human aspect of migration, with the enormous incurred sacrifices and the generosity with which immigrants share their income with family members who were left behind. It has been more than 150 years since big groups of Europeans had to emigrate due to famine in their countries, among other reasons. They left their homes knowing that they would not see their parents, siblings, and everything they had known and cherished in their life. Even though today’s emigrants have in general greater possibilities of returning to their home countries, their vicissitudes are not necessarily negligible, since they are frequently victims of rejection and marginalization.

In this sense, all that is left to do is to stand in awe while observing the significant amount of transfers that Salvadorian emigrants, among many others, send to their homes nowadays. These are only one example of family values, traditions, and solidarity that our countries still possess. They might be poor in monetary terms, but thank God these countries are rich in human, family values.

From El Universal, Caracas, August 2003