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In 1964, I came to the United States from South Korea, then an extremely poor developing country that most experts, including those at the World Bank, had written off as having little hope for economic growth.
My family moved to Texas, and later to Iowa. I was just 5 years old when we arrived, and my brother, sister, and I spoke no English. Most of our neighbors and classmates had never seen an Asian before. I felt like a resident alien in every sense of the term.
I am the World Bank’s Director for the Western Balkans, and I live in Vienna, Austria, where thousands of refugees, mostly fleeing from conflict in Syria and Afghanistan, are now straggling across the border from Hungary after harrowing trips on crowded boats, uncomfortable stays in makeshift camps, cramped bus rides and long journeys on foot when all else fails.
My father’s parents were refugees to America. They were Jewish peasants from Russia who fled the pogroms of the early twentieth century. My mother’s great-grandparents were economic migrants, educated German Jews who went to Chicago in the mid-nineteenth century to seek their fortune in grain futures and real estate. When my parents married in the early 1950s, theirs was considered a “mixed marriage”: Russian and German; peasant stock and educated elite; refugees and economic migrants. I know the difference between the latter two: refugees are pushed out of their home countries by war, persecution and a fear of death; economic migrants are pulled out of their home countries by the promise of a more prosperous life for themselves and their children.
1. Why are remittances so important to India's economy?
India received $70 billion in remittances last year, and is expected to receive over $72 billion this year. That makes remittances one of the largest sources of foreign exchange for India, larger than its IT exports. Remittances directly flow to the migrants’ families, helping them finance purchases of essential items, housing, school and medical services. Remittances act like an insurance for Indian households, increasing in times of need (such as weddings, funerals, natural disasters). They also act like an insurance for the country, rising in times of financial difficulties, such as when external private capital flows decrease and the rupee weakens. They reduce poverty and increase human capital by enabling schooling and medical services. They also provide much needed funding for business investments for households.
The workshop’s four major findings are: