Saturday, 13 March 2010

Haiti: US remittances keep the homeland afloat

Haiti's economy depends on the estimated US$1.5 billion a year in remittances sent home by its million-strong diaspora. Dilip Ratha, lead economist at the World Bank said the figure could be even higher, accounting for perhaps half the national income.

The money is funnelled into the country via banks, transfer agencies or informal "mailmen" (factuers), who make deliveries for friends and family, sometimes for payment. A 2007 Humanitarian Policy Group report for the Overseas Development Institute estimated that "an unknown but certainly large" amount of remittances were delivered this way.

The 7.0 magnitude earthquake on 12 January 2010 halted non-emergency travel into Haiti for a time, putting a temporary stop to the factuers and preventing the central bank from distributing funds to branches in the countryside. Haitians in the United States and elsewhere were forced to find other ways to help relatives. Read more

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