Saudi Arabia's recent indigenization effort titled "Nitaqat" came into effect on September 10. Saudi firms have been color coded to four categories - Red, Yellow and Green, and Blue/VIP. Firms labeled "Red" will not be able to renew their foreign workers' visas and have until November 26 2011 to improve their status by hiring more Saudi natives. "Yellow" firms have until February 23 2012 to improve their status and will not be allowed to extend their existing foreign employees' work visas beyond six years. "Green” or “Excellent” firms with high Saudization rates will be allowed to offer jobs to foreign workers that are employed by firms in the Red and Yellow categories and transfer their visas. And firms in the highest “VIP” category will enjoy the ability to hire workers from any part of the world using a web-based system with minimal clearance.
Diaspora members and remittance service providers (RSPs) can potentially help the global fight against malaria and other diseases. It is well known that migrants send extra money home for buying medicine and medical services. But medical care for the family members alone is not enough to keep them safe from malaria and other communicable diseases that can spread from elsewhere in the community. Migrants, therefore, may be willing to contribute to fighting diseases at the community level. Only there isn’t an easy way for a diaspora member to contribute to such efforts.
Migration flows in both directions between the United States and Mexico have diminished according to recent statistics released by the Mexican and United States governments.
Mexican immigration to the United States began to decline in the mid-2006, and that pattern has continued into 2010. The Pew Hispanic Center analysis of Mexican government data indicates that the number of Mexicans annually leaving Mexico for the U.S. declined from more than one million in 2006 to 404,000 in 2010. Rand Corporation also found that the Mexican immigrants returning to Mexico have not increased despite the crisis.
|Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo: © Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank|
You might recall that the finance minister of Nepal announced in the annual budget in July 2009 that the government would issue a diaspora bond to raise funds for infrastructure development. Indeed Nepal Rastra Bank followed through in June 2010 by floating a “Foreign Employment Bond”. Although the initial goal was to issue Rs. 7 billion (about $100 million), Rs. 1 billion was floated in the first round. Nepali workers in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Malaysia could buy the bond from one of seven licensed money transfer operators in denominations of Rs. 5,000 (about $65).
Data are hard to come by, but the funds raised have been minuscule, nowhere near target. Apparently, the name of the bond had nothing to do with its unsuccessful launch!
Since 2001, the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (“DREAM Act”) has been discussed in the congressional sessions without success. On December 8th, the fifth version of the DREAM Act passed the House by a vote of 216 to 198. The Senate is likely to vote on this today. However, it seems that the legislation will be short of the 60 votes needed to bring the bill to the floor for debate. (See article)
The current version of the Act would allow undocumented immigrants under age 30, who entered the United States before they reach 16 years old, to attain temporary status if they have graduated from high school or earned a general equivalency degree (GED). To qualify, migrants must attend two years of college or serve in the military as requirement to get temporary residency. (See article)
A few receiving countries already tax remittances, often through indirect means. For example, remittances sent from the US to Cuba can only be paid to recipients in Cuban Convertible pesos (CUC) or Chavitos with a tax of 20 percent for conversion of US$ to CUCs. The US government and a US senator called upon Cuba to repeal this tax when the US lifted restrictions on sending remittances to Cuba. Other countries that have a parallel market premium with an overvalued official exchange rate, e.g., Ethiopia, Pakistan, and Venezuela to name a few, also implicitly tax remittances when they require recipients to convert remittances to local currency at uncompetitive official exchange rates. Philippines used to impose a small Documentary Stamp Tax (DST) of 0.3 pesos for every 200 pesos, but this was scrapped in November (see article).
I was in Dubai last week when the news broke about Qatar's World Cup bid. Qatar winning the vote to host World Cup in 2022 will produce significant increases in migration flows from, and remittance flows to, South Asia, East Asia and East and North Africa.
Qatar employs just short of 1.5 million migrant workers currently. It is the largest host country for migrants in the world: the share of migrants in the population exceeds 85%, for every adult Qatari national, there are 10+ migrant workers (see Factbook, my earlier blog post). Although it does not report data on remittances to the IMF, newspapers quoting Qatar Central Bank reported outward remittances approaching $7 billion in 2010. The sheer increase in the demand for workers for constructing stadiums and developing infrastructure is expected to result in huge migration flows from South Asia, but also from East Asia (the Philippines, but also China). Outward remittances will rise more than proportionately, first because wages will rise, and second, because the authorities will provide greater scrutiny to recruitment practices and working conditions for migrant workers.