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COVID-19: Remittance Flows to Shrink 14% by 2021

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As the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis continues to spread, the amount of money migrant workers send home is projected to decline 14 percent by 2021 compared to the pre COVID-19 levels in 2019, according to the latest estimates published in the World Bank’s Migration and Development Brief.  

Remittance flows to low and middle-income countries (LMICs) are projected to fall by 7 percent, to $508 billion in 2020, followed by a further decline of 7.5 percent, to $470 billion in 2021. The foremost factors driving the decline in remittances include weak economic growth and employment levels in migrant-hosting countries, weak oil prices; and depreciation of the currencies of remittance-source countries against the US dollar.

The impact of COVID-19 is pervasive when viewed through a migration lens as it affects migrants and their families who rely on remittances,” said Mamta Murthi, Vice President for Human Development and Chair of the Migration Steering Group of the World Bank. “The World Bank will continue working with partners and countries to keep the remittance lifeline flowing, and to help sustain human capital development.”

The declines in 2020 and 2021 will affect all regions, with the steepest drop expected in Europe and Central Asia (by 16 percent and 8 percent, respectively), followed by East Asia and the Pacific (11 percent and 4 percent), the Middle East and North Africa (8 percent and 8 percent), Sub-Saharan Africa (9 percent and 6 percent), South Asia (4 percent and 11 percent), and Latin America and the Caribbean (0.2 percent and 8 percent).

The importance of remittances as a source of external financing for LMICs is expected to amplify in 2020, even with the expected decline. Remittance flows to LMICs touched a record high of $548 billion in 2019, larger than foreign direct investment flows ($534 billion) and overseas development assistance (about $166 billion). The gap between remittance flows and FDI is expected to widen further as FDI is expected to decline more sharply.

Migrants are suffering greater health risks and unemployment during this crisis,” said Dilip Ratha, lead author of the Brief and head of KNOMAD. “The underlying fundamentals driving remittances are weak and this is not the time to take our eyes off the downside risks to the remittance lifelines.”

This year, for the first time in recent history, the stock of international migrants is likely to decline as new migration has slowed and return migration has increased. Return migration has been reported in all parts of the world following the lifting of national lockdowns which left many migrant workers stranded in host countries. Rising unemployment in the face of tighter visa restrictions on migrants and refugees is likely to result in a further increase in return migration.

“Beyond humanitarian considerations, there is a strong case to support migrants who work with host communities on the frontline in hospitals, labs, farms, and factories,” said Michal Rutkowski, Global Director of the Social Protection and Jobs Global Practice at the World Bank. “Supportive policy responses by host countries should include migrants, while origin or transit countries should consider measures to support migrants returning home.

Origin countries must find ways of supporting returning migrants in resettling, finding jobs or opening businesses. The surge in return migration is likely to prove burdensome for the communities (to which migrants return) as they must provide quarantine facilities in the immediate term and support housing, jobs, and reintegration efforts in the medium term.

According to the World Bank’s Remittance Prices Worldwide Database, the global average cost of sending $200 was 6.8 percent in the third quarter of 2020, largely unchanged since the first quarter of 2019. This is more than double the Sustainable Development Goal target of 3 percent by 2030. The cost was the lowest in South Asia (5 percent) and highest in Sub-Saharan Africa (8.5 percent). Banks are the costliest channel for sending remittances, averaging 10.9 percent, followed by post offices at 8.6 percent, money transfer operators at 5.8 percent, and mobile operators at 2.8 percent.

Despite being the cheapest, money transfer and mobile operators face increasing hurdles as banks close their accounts to reduce risk of non-compliance with anti-money laundering (AML) and combating terrorism financing (CFT) standards. To keep these channels open, especially for lower-income migrants, AML/CFT rules could be temporarily simplified for small remittances. Further, strengthening mobile money regulations and identity systems will improve transparency of transactions. Facilitating digital remittances would require improving access to bank accounts for mobile remittance service providers as well as senders and recipients of remittances.

The World Bank Group, one of the largest sources of funding and knowledge for developing countries, is taking broad, fast action to help developing countries strengthen their pandemic response. It is supporting public health interventions, working to ensure the flow of critical supplies and equipment, and helping the private sector continue to operate and sustain jobs. The WBG is making available up to $160 billion over a 15-month period ending June 2021 to help more than 100 countries protect the poor and vulnerable, support businesses, and bolster economic recovery. This includes $50 billion of new IDA resources through grants and highly concessional loans and $12 billion for developing countries to finance the purchase and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

Regional Remittance Trends

Remittance flows to the East Asia and Pacific region are projected to fall by 11 percent in 2020 to $131 billion due to the adverse impact of COVID-19. China and the Philippines are the region’s top recipients, while as a share of GDP, the top recipients are Tonga and Samoa. Remittance costs: The average cost of sending $200 to the region increased slightly to 7.1 percent in the third quarter of 2020. The five lowest-cost corridors in the region averaged 2.5 percent, while the five highest-cost corridors, excluding South Africa to China, which is an outlier, averaged 13.3 percent.

Remittances to countries in Europe and Central Asia are estimated to fall by 16 percent to $48 billion as the pandemic and fall in oil prices are likely to have wide-ranging impacts on economies, with nearly all countries in the region posting double-digit declines of remittances in 2020. The depreciation of the Russian ruble is also likely to weaken outward remittances from Russia. Remittance costs: The average cost of sending $200 to the region fell slightly to 6.5 percent in the third quarter of 2020 from 6.6 percent a year ago.

Remittance flows into Latin America and the Caribbean are expected to be about $96 billion in 2020, a decline of 0.2 percent over the previous year. Remittances to Colombia, El Salvador, and the Dominican Republic registered positive year-on-year growth between the months of June and September after falling sharply in April and May. Flows to the region’s top recipient, Mexico, held up in part because migrants were employed in essential services in the United States and eligible migrants also benefitted from U.S. stimulus programs. Remittance costs:The average cost of sending $200 to the region rose slightly to 5.8 percent in the third quarter. In many smaller remittance corridors, costs continue to be high. For example, the cost of sending money to Haiti and the Dominican Republic exceeds 8 percent.

Remittances to the Middle East and North Africa region are projected to fall by 8 percent in 2020 to $55 billion due to the projected persistence of the global slowdown. Remittances inflows to Egypt, the region’s largest recipient, have so far been countercyclical to the crisis, as Egyptian workers abroad increase one-off transfers to their families back home. Flows are likely to eventually decline due to lower oil prices and slower economic growth in the Gulf countries, with major remittance-receiving countries likely to register falls in remittances. Remittance costs: The cost of sending $200 to the region rose in the third quarter of 2020 to 7.5 percent, compared with 6.8 percent a year ago. Costs vary greatly across corridors: the cost of sending money from high-income OECD countries to Lebanon continues to be in the double digits.

Remittances to South Asia are projected to decline by around 4 percent in 2020 to $135 billion. In Pakistan and Bangladesh, the impact of the global economic slowdown has been somewhat countered by the diversion of remittances from informal to formal channels due to the difficulty of carrying money by hand under travel restrictions. Pakistan also introduced a tax incentive whereby withholding tax was exempted from July 1, 2020, on cash withdrawals or on the issuance of banking instruments/transfers from a domestic bank account. Bangladesh registered a large increase in remittance inflows in July after the floods that inundated a quarter of its landmass. Remittance costs: At just under 5 percent in the third quarter of 2020, South Asia was the least costly region to send $200 to. But costs are well over 10 percent in some corridors (from Japan, South Africa and Thailand, and from Pakistan to Afghanistan).

Remittances to Sub-Saharan Africa are expected to decline by around 9 percent in 2020 to $44 billion. Within the region, remittances to Kenya have so far stayed positive, though flows are likely to eventually decline in 2021. All major remittance-receiving countries will likely see a decline of remittances. As the COVID-19 pandemic affects both destination and origin countries of Sub-Saharan migrants, the fall in remittances is expected to further lead to an increase in food insecurity and poverty. Remittance costs: Sending $200 remittances to the region cost on average 8.5 percent in the third quarter of 2020, representing a modest decrease compared with 9 percent a year ago. Sub-Saharan Africa is the costliest region to send remittances to. The promotion of digital technology, combined with a regulatory environment promoting competition in the remittances market and review of AML/CFT regulations, are essential to lowering remittances fees for the region.

Detailed regional and global analysis is available in the Migration and Development Brief 33 available on www.knomad.org and blogs.worldbank.org/peoplemove. Brief 33 highlights developments related to migration-related Sustainable Development Goal indicators for which the World Bank is a custodian: increasing the volume of remittances as a percentage of gross domestic product (17.3.2), reducing remittance costs (10.c.1), and reducing recruitment costs for migrant workers (10.7.1).

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Finance

How Twitter can help your business

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Twitter is easily one of the leading online platforms which encourages networking on a global scale. The number of users, more than 300 million, is staggering and this is not through sheer luck on their part. The virtual destination provides many advantages including a delectable smorgasbord of ideas for your business. Avoid it at your peril. Here, you can in very little time, easily and cost-effectively develop your brand, its awareness, relationships with customers, past, present, and future, especially if you decide to buy real Twitter followers. A tweet is a post, Twitter style. It will include content, copy and visuals are possible, which captivate your followers. Playstation, Starbucks, and Chanel are among the most popular brands, with a combined following of 42 million people. Brainstorm these ideas as relates to your business and upon implementation, you’ll enjoy their effects.

1. Brand Story
The story about your multi-faceted business should be diligently threaded across your content calendar. Whether your business is complex in its offering or not, your tweets must be diverse in their topic. Impress with accolades received, ooze humility sincerely with a question about a product color you’re grappling with, showcase team member achievements, or the fun on offer at the trade expo you’re attending. Your followers will be converted to loyal and long-term customers if you bear all, professionally.


2. Generate Traffic
Social media content calendars often include a call to action, usefully encouraging a specific activity and how and where to do so, which very often will direct the individual to your website, blog, or perhaps an insightful video. Twitter generates traffic to your other important locales, which is one or more steps closer to a purchasing decision. This is what you want and lots of it!


3. Tweet from Anywhere
If your launch strategy includes activity on Twitter next Wednesday, while you’ll be basking in the sun on a beach in the Mediterranean, finally enjoying a long overdue vacation, execute it from your lounger, on your mobile device. You don’t need your larger devices to navigate Twitter and enjoy success. The ease with which you can communicate with followers easily categorizes this platform as one of enormous convenience.


4. Massive Reach
You have never had this number of people quite literally at your fingertips. Be crystal clear about who your target audience is. That your offering has a 250km radius limitation, is crucial information. If you have a limited quantity of an item, your content must reference this. You do not want to disappoint someone continents away, who thinks that what you offer is theirs for the taking when that is not the case. You have an opportunity for massive reach. Plan well and your bottom line will impress all stakeholders.

5. Research Competitors
Know what your competitors are doing. Follow their Twitter profiles and make note of what type of content tends to elicit the greatest level of engagement, good or bad. Follow some of their more active followers, which may lead you to more like-minded prospects. Keep a close eye on their influencer activity. All this research will provide a useful understanding and may inform some of your future choices. However, Twitter has over 350 million monthly users, so avoid focusing your efforts on trying to out-perform them. Focus instead on doing what you do, to a level of excellence and soon enough, your competitors will be following your lead.

Twitter must be included in your comprehensive marketing campaign. Its statistics are indicative of an organization that understands very well what it can do for you and it supports your success, with continual enhancements, all of which will continue to generate traffic, conveniently.

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Finance

Global Policy-makers Face Complex Set of Divergent Economic Challenges in Coming Year

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From the impact of a new COVID variant to continued inflation, governments will continue to face economic challenges in 2022. In a session on the global economic outlook, policy-makers outlined their immediate and long-term actions to stabilize the global economy to business, government and civil society leaders taking part in the World Economic Forum’s virtual event, the Davos Agenda.

Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, emphasized that the response to the pandemic crisis has been anything but orthodox. “In a highly coordinated fashion, the world central banks and fiscal authorities have prevented the world falling into another great depression,” she said.

“Policy flexibility is critical in 2022 – persistent inflation, record fiscal debt levels and COVID-19 combine to present a complex obstacle course for policy-makers,” she added. In particular, vaccination rates represent a dangerous divergence between countries; more than 86 countries did not meet end-of-year vaccination targets.”

Georgieva expects the economic recovery will continue in 2022, but she cautioned: “It is losing momentum amid persistent inflation and record debt levels which now exceed $26 trillion.” More than 60% of developing countries are heading towards debt distress”, she said, more than twice as many as a few years ago.

Christine Lagarde, President of the European Central Bank, said that during the COVID-19 crisis, monetary and fiscal policies joined hands to respond exceptionally to the pandemic. “In Europe, so far, we are not seeing inflationary pressure spiral out of control. We see wages and energy prices stabilizing from the middle of the year as bottlenecks reduce and wage inflation normalizes.”

She added: “In Europe we are unlikely to see the kind of inflation increases that the US is experiencing; demand and employment participation are only just returning to the pre-pandemic levels.” She stressed that “Europe is stronger and more united than it was before the pandemic and we will act if we need to.”

Kuroda Haruhiko, Governor of Bank of Japan, said Japan has been relatively successful in minimizing the death rate from COVID-19, although the economic recovery is still lagging. “Public sector debt in Japan is now well over 200% of GDP,” he said, “but the government projects a primary surplus from 2025, hence thereafter public debt should decline.”

He was optimistic about progress so far. “The Bank of Japan’s accommodative monetary policy has been working well and the Japanese economy is now emerging from the spectre of 15 years of deflation.” He went on to say: “In Japan we expect an inflation rate of about 1% in 2022 and the Bank of Japan will continue our stimulative monetary policy”

Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Minister of Finance of Indonesia, revealed that the country should see a strong recovery in 2022. “To build on this, we are expecting more than 1% of additional GDP growth from a series of recent reforms.”

She said that Indonesia is the largest economy in the ASEAN region but “it is vulnerable to a dependence on commodities – the emphasis now is on value-added activities”. She added: “We are improving Indonesia’s investment environment with a comprehensive reform package on tax, regulation and incentives.”

Paulo Guedes, Minister of Economy of Brazil, said his country’s economy is bouncing back strongly and economic output is already above the pre-pandemic level.

“Do not underestimate Brazil’s resilience,” he said. “The country’s debt to GDP ratio has stabilized at around 80%, well less than widespread fears that debt/GDP could exceed 100%.” He pointed out that more than 3 million new jobs were created in 2021 and the government has assisted 68 million Brazilians with direct income transfers.

He was less upbeat about inflation. “Central Bankers are asleep at the wheel – inflation will be a persistent problem for the western world. Inflationary pressures will not be transitory.”

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Afghanistan: 500,000 jobs lost since Taliban takeover

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More than half a million people have lost or been pushed out of their jobs in Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover, the UN International Labour Organization (ILO) said on Wednesday.

In a warning that the economy has been “paralyzed” since the de facto authorities took control last August, ILO said that there have been huge losses in jobs and working hours.

Women have been hit especially hard.

By the middle of this year, it’s expected that job losses will increase to nearly 700,000 – with direst predictions topping 900,000 – as a result of the crisis in Afghanistan and “restrictions on women’s participation in the workplace”.

Gender gap

Women’s employment levels are already extremely low by global standards, but ILO said that they are estimated to have decreased by 16 per cent in the third quarter of 2021, and they could fall by between 21 per cent and 28 per cent by mid-2022.

“The situation in Afghanistan is critical and immediate support for stabilization and recovery is required,” said Ramin Behzad, Senior Coordinator of the International Labour Organization (ILO) for Afghanistan. “While the priority is to meet immediate humanitarian needs, lasting and inclusive recovery will depend on people and communities having access to decent employment, livelihoods and basic services.”

Hundreds of thousands of job losses have been seen in several key sectors which have been “devastated” since the takeover, ILO said.

These include agriculture and the civil service, where workers have either been let go or left unpaid. In construction, the sector’s 538,000 workers – of which 99 per cent are men – have suffered too, as major infrastructure projects have stalled.

Forces sapped

The Taliban takeover has also led to “hundreds of thousands” of Afghan security force members losing their job, said ILO, noting that teachers and health workers have been deeply impacted by the lack of cash in the economy, amid falling international donor support.

As the crisis continues to unfold, ILO explained that the Taliban capture of Kabul on 15 August, threatened hard-fought development gains achieved over the past two decades.

Domestic markets have been “widely disrupted”, the UN agency said, while productive economic activity has dropped, which has in turn driven up production costs.

At the same time, because Afghanistan’s reported $9.5 billion in assets have been frozen, “foreign aid, trade and investment…have been severely impacted”, ILO continued, pointing to cash shortages and restrictions on bank withdrawals, causing misery for businesses, workers and households.

Kids pay price

The lack of work also threatens to worsen child labour levels in Afghanistan, where only 40 per cent of children aged five to 17 years old attend school.

In absolute numbers, ILO noted that there are more than 770,000 boys and about 300,000 girls involved in child labour.

The problem is worst in rural areas – where 9.9 per cent, or 839,000 children –  are much more likely to be in child labour compared to those in urban areas (2.9 per cent or 80,000).

To support the Afghan people this year, the UN’s top priorities are to provide lifesaving assistance, sustain essential services and preserve social investments and community-level systems which are essential to meeting basic human needs.

In support of this strategy, the ILO has pledged to work with employers and trade unions to promote productive employment and decent work.

The organisation’s focus is in four key areas: emergency employment services, employment-intensive investment, enterprise promotion and skills development, while respecting labour rights, gender equality, social dialogue, social protection,elimination of child labour and disability inclusion.

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