Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Remittance fees: The tip of the tip of the tip of the iceberg

The remittances are to migration like the part of the cash dividends from corporations that you send to your grandmother and children are to the economy… just the tip of the tip of the iceberg!

Of course the cost of sending those remittances can only be the tip of the tip of the tip of the iceberg.

There has been an incredible fixation by many institutions with the fees charged by the banks for the service of making the remittances. Yes, of course it is good that these fees become more competitive but it is almost laughable to think about all the resources used up in analyzing this very minor issue in an immigrant’s reality.

Just the money spent on communicating by telephone with home, or buying yourself over the borders, or the costs derived from not having a driver license and living in cramp living quarters, surpasses by far the sum of all the fees paid to the banks. So please stop talking so much about the fees, and help the immigrants to make more money instead… with which they would happily pay even higher fees to the banks, if so asked. Talk about shortsightedness!

That is what I said over and over while I was an ED at the World Bank; and that is what I wrote in my book Voice and Noise; and that is what I kept on saying thereafter in all the many conferences on remittances that I have assisted to… to the extent that I now almost feel embarrassed for them.

Yet, years later, I still have to be asking: How many more millions in research, conferences and publications are the development institutions to waste on this really silly and minor aspect of the migration issue?

Please help the migrants make more money instead!