Migrants from Central America, Caribbean send more money home, UN reports

WASHINGTON – Migrant workers from a majority of Central America and the Caribbean countries were able to send home more money to their families in the first months of 2010 than at the same time last year but remittances to Mexico continued to suffer from the global economic crisis, a United Nations agency announced today.

“After a year of extreme hardship because of the ongoing economic challenges resulting from the financial crisis, migrant workers are beginning to send more money home,” said Kevin Cleaver, Associate Vice-President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a specialized agency dedicated to eradicating poverty and hunger in rural areas of developing countries.

Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala each showed strong increases in remittances for the first time since the onset of the crisis, according to information released this week by the Central Banks of these countries. Information released up to February also indicated this trend for Jamaica and Nicaragua.

By comparison, Mexico continues to be hardest hit by the crisis, experiencing an almost 16 per cent decline in remittances in 2009 and a similar decline during the first two months of 2010.

Remittances are essential to many economies in the region. The Central American and Caribbean countries received almost $16 billion in remittances during 2009, representing between 11 and 16 per cent of GDP (gross domestic product) for many nations.

Up to 40 per cent of these cash flows go directly to the rural areas where remittances are most important to families’ livelihoods. Rural families have been hit hard in the past by the drop in remittances. The growth in remittances in February and March for the five Central American and Caribbean countries could be the first indication of an upward trend of important revenue streams.

“There’s now been four consecutive months of growth in remittances to Jamaica,” said Josefina Stubbs, IFAD’s Director of Latin America and the Caribbean Division. “We believe it indicates that Jamaica will likely be the first country in the region to begin a recovery from the decline in remittances over the past year.”

Remittances are vital to the Jamaican economy, representing approximately 15 per cent of GDP last year – the equivalent of $660 per person living in Jamaica. This makes it particularly significant that Jamaicans living abroad sent home 7.4 per cent more money to their families this February than at the same time last year. In particular, remittances from the United States, which account for 62 per cent of remittances to the country, rose strongly.

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