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Get the Conditions Right for Remittances to Matter

Zahid Hussain's picture

Recent evidence suggests that remittances have a positive impact on economic growth. This post will examine evidence based on an international panel data set that captures the surge in migration and remittances observed during 2006-09. The dataset includes 70 countries spanning from 1990 to 2009. This to our knowledge is the most recent data set that has been used in empirical remittance work. The recent effort of countries to decrease money laundering, use of improved technology and decrease in transaction costs is leading to a decrease in the unofficial portion of remittances. There has also been a surge in migration and remittances in the last half of the past decade. Thus this dataset should more comprehensively capture the growth impact of remittances compared to previous studies. Different models used to calculate the impact of remittances on growth are detailed in the report titled Bangladesh: Towards Accelerated, Inclusive and Sustainable Growth—Opportunities and Challenges, Volume II, Main Report, published in June 2012.

The impact of remittances on per capita GDP growth is economically significant

How Remittances Grease the Wheels of Bangladesh’s Economy

Zahid Hussain's picture

What impact do remittances have on stimulating overall economic growth? Remittances can be used for consumption and investment which further stimulates demand for goods and services, as well as contribute to financial development. On the other hand, they can create dependence in recipients and cause real exchange-rate appreciation which adversely affects domestic production.

The answer is an empirical one which we can answer using available data. Our findings echo recent economic research which shows that remittances, even when not invested directly, can have an important multiplier effect.

In our study, we focused only on the magnitude of the impact of remittances on aggregate demand in Bangladesh and calculated the traditional Keynesian multiplier effect, that is how much income is generated from every remittance dollar, following the approach adopted by Nicholas Glytsos by estimating a consumption function, an investment function, and an imports function. To estimate the parameters we used data from the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics national accounts covering the period 1981-2010. We ran simple Ordinary Least Squares regressions to estimate the structural parameters. Here is a summary of our results:

What Drives Remittances of Bangladeshi Migrants?

Zahid Hussain's picture

Why do migrants send money back home? Distinguishing the different motives helps us understand the role these transfers play in influencing the behavior of households, and the policy implications of alternative motives can be very different.

I tried answering this question using micro survey data from Bangladesh on possible motivations, using a multivariate regression model.

The results were a little unexpected. Overall, the evidence contradicts the argument that remittance-receiving countries have little scope for policy intervention. The analysis shows that remittances are not driven exclusively by the need for family support but also by the migrants’ skill and education level and motivation to transfer their savings as investment in their home country. Thus, contrary to conventional wisdom, remittances play a vital role in not only supporting consumption but also in serving as an important source of investment funding. The extent to which remittances contribute to investment depends on the supportiveness of government policies and whether the economic environment is conducive to investment activity.

Surprisingly, none of the demand side variables—the existence of a surviving parent or spouse—seem to matter. Among the supply side variables, education and skill matter most.

New evidence reaffirms that migration is costly but still worthwhile for Bangladeshis

Zahid Hussain's picture

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) presented their Final Report on The Bangladesh Household Remittance Survey 2009 in a workshop held in Dhaka on May 12, 2010.  This survey collected data from a nationally representative sample of 10,926 migrant households.  The findings of the survey confirm most of what we know about migration and remittance based on smaller surveys and anecdotal evidence.  In particular, the findings are in line with the ones from the World Bank Survey (2007), which was smaller in scope. 

I summarize below what appears to me as some emerging stylized facts about the profile of Bangladeshi migrants and their remittance behavior.

Migrants tend to be young (32 years old on average) married males who have at least completed primary education (over 75 percent). They go to the Middle-East (nearly 73 percent) and Asia (22) with the help of relatives (55 percent) and intermediaries (45 percent) after obtaining a low skilled or semi skilled job contract (79 percent) for which they had to wait for about 6 months.