Conference Explores Remittances, Financial Education in the Immigrant Population

Article excerpt

Recent studies estimate that between 1965 and 2000, the number of individuals riving outside their countries of birth grew by 3 percent, reaching a total of more than 180 million people. Throughout the years, remittances--or money sent to immigrants' home countries--have significantly contributed to economic growth in their home countries.

This past May, numerous economists, academics, immigration policy experts and government officials participated in the 2010 International Remittance and Financial Education Conference held in Mexico City. The conference focused on new international remittance trends, the latest financial products and the most innovative financial literacy programs geared toward the immigrant population living in the U.S. and Canada, among other countries. This event was organized by the Inter-American Bank and other international institutions, with more than 700 participants from all over the world.

According to these experts, 2009 remittance flows to Latin America and the Caribbean declined as a result of the recent global financial crisis. Based on the latest studies, for the first time on record and after a long period of consistent growth, the volume of remittances to the region was less than the amount sent the year before. The total amount of remittances to Latin America and the Caribbean area in 2009 was $58.8 billion. The biggest recipient countries were Mexico with $21.1 billion, Brazil with $4.7 billion, Colombia with $4.1 billion, Guatemala with $3.9 billion and E1 Salvador with $3.5 billion.

The World Bank estimates that remittances represent a lifeline for more than 700 million people in developing countries, and the money received is an important source of family and national income in many developing economies, representing in some cases a very relevant percentage of their GDE

Remittances at the local level are of crucial importance to families that receive them. These funds are used for families' basic riving needs, health care services, educational expenditures, etc. Several governments in Latin America have developed a series of re-investment programs in rural and urban areas where immigrants living outside their home country can invest in local community projects, basic infrastructure, and business activities in their home communities. One of the most successful programs in the region was established by the Government of Mexico, through the Institute of Mexican Abroad in collaboration with other entities, promoting access to financial services in the banking system.

The biggest challenges for banks and financial institutions are to integrate remittance transfers to financial services in the immigrant population and to maximize the use of these resources. …