True or false: Remittances sent from the world’s top five donor nations – the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany and Japan – exceed each of these countries’ official development assistance.
Answer: Not quite true, but almost.
Actually, the world’s four leading bilateral donors (excluding Japan) saw remittances sent by their diaspora communities far outpace their ODA in 2010. In six of the top 10 donor countries, remittances by individual residents exceeded government aid spending.
The United States is the largest source of remittances by far. The World Bank estimates that in 2010, immigrants to the United States sent a total of $110.76 billion to their homelands, with Mexico, China, the Philippines, India, Vietnam, El Salvador and Cuba among the top destinations.
The Philippines is also a top destination for remittances from Canada and Japan. The country’s economy relies more on remittances than ODA – in fact, remittances to the Philippines ($19.76 billion in 2009) dwarf the development aid it receives ($310 million).
International organizations have emphasized the positive impact of remittances on developing countries’ growth. For one thing, remittances tend to remain stable amid global crises and violent conflicts, unlike other financial flows used to reduce poverty and hunger worldwide.
“Remittances not only increase individual household income, but also have the potential to increase local and national economic growth in developing countries since a part of them can be channelled into investments,” the International Organization for Migration argues. “This can lead to a more sustainable form of poverty reduction.”
Now more than ever, aid groups large and small are seeking new ways to harness the power of remittances for international development.
Eliza Villarino currently manages one of today’s leading publications on humanitarian aid, global health and international development, the weekly GDB. At Devex, she has helped grow a global newsroom, with talented journalists from major development hubs such as Washington, D.C, London and Brussels. She regularly writes about innovations in global development.
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