Size does matter.
But it matters far more when you are one of the World Bank’s 40 member countries with populations under 1.5 million. These developing small states gathered together at the Bank’s annual meetings in Istanbul at the annual Small States Forum to show that, when they all agree, small can be powerful.
The World Bank’s small states, ranging from Suriname in South America, to Swaziland in Africa, to Vanuatu in the Pacific, met in a standing-room-only venue packed with attendees. The topic on the table was remittances, the huge cash flows sent home by economic migrants working in other countries.
Almost $4.5 billion in remittances poured into small states last year, dwarfing all financial aid packages. In some countries, remittances are greater than one-fifth of GDP. Of the world’s seven most remittance-dependent countries, four are small states: Tonga and Samoa in the Pacific, Lesotho in Africa and Guyana in South America. Overall, on average, remittances matter substantially more for small states than for their large larger developing counterparts. And the worry is that remittances are drying up in the face of the global financial crunch—with a projected decline of 9 percent this year, according to the presentation by the World Bank’s Chief Economist, Justin Lin.
Cape Verde’s Minister of Finance, Cristina Duarte, says remittances are a huge issue for her country, and one she eagerly discussed with her fellow small state colleagues. "We concentrated a lot on analyzing and discussing the role of remittances—how can we manage better remittances, which are an important capitals inflow for our country." The bottom-line according to Duarte: no single country can survive on its own.