The change in weather brings with it many a connotation: exam time, beach days, and holidaying. Yet for some, the trip they make this summer will not be on a jet plane or to a resort; they will attempt a trip out of misery, for themselves and their families.
The past few weeks I have been exploring the socio-economic impact of remittances. Whilst statistics look promising, with development, education and entrepreneurship gaining ground, I realized that my researched population is somewhat different and suffers many issues that most studies do not discuss.
We have a tendency in the “West” to put all migrants in the same basket. It’s as though there are two categories: locals and foreigners, or us and them. Whilst this may be the case legally (after all, you are either a citizen or not, or a resident or not), it is miles away from reality. Nothing shows this clearer than remittances.
There are four key points:
a. Political conditions
Many countries’ political conditions are such that indefinite military service, border disputes, powerful warlords, militia and the like lead to a general lack of human security. This means that the political conditions are not such as to encourage investment (from nationals, as well as FDI).
b. National resources
Whilst countries such as Eritrea, Sudan and Somalia boast many natural resources, there are two reasons for their lack of use: knotted internal/external interests and a lack of resource utilization strategies that would trickle down to all levels of the population. If the resources are there and are not being utilized, it seems that remittances can do little to change this, as investment in such structures is anyhow disallowed.
c. Remittances to IDP camps
Temporary housing, be this IDP camps or other temporary arrangements because of civil or political strife, are certainly not breeding grounds for development since the critical motivation for people to invest in local structures would indeed be their receiving a return on them. This is close to impossible in permanently temporary arrangements.
d. The economic cycle
Unfortunately, whilst we assume that an increase in resources will boost consumption, which will in turn instigate production and lead to greater income, the above conditions are more likely to lead to an increase in demand for imports, and a cycle of dependency.
So whilst remittances may indeed provide some livelihood for those who could otherwise not sustain themselves, it seems that all one could do in a situation of utmost despair, where some resources are becoming available, is flee!