Declining Dollar Hurts Remittance Recipients Abroad

Declining Dollar Hurts Remittance Recipients Abroad

As the value of the dollar continues to decline relative to other currencies, some of those most affected don't even live in the United States. Instead, they are citizens of developing countries who receive remitted dollars from family and friends working abroad. For them, the weakening dollar is particularly crippling because it either converts into less local currency or, for those in countries with pegged currencies, can't keep up with local inflation.

It's a situation roughly similar to American travelers in Europe discovering that it now costs $4.77 for a Big Mac, whereas a year and a half ago the cost was only $3.77. The dollar is no longer going as far as it once did, and the decline is pinching the incomes of remittance recipients -- often the poorest -- and prompting shifts in international migration patterns. Policymakers in developing countries need to act soon to reduce the costs and unpredictability of remittances and ensure that social safety nets cover those who are harmed.

The most recent data show that in 2006 over $42.2 billion U.S. dollars were sent abroad. If this amount were the annual income of a country, it would be ranked just above Luxembourg as the world's 64th largest economy. What's more, the World Bank (which computes these statistics) says this estimate is most certainly low because it only includes "officially recorded remittances." The amount of money sent from the United States could be up to 50 percent higher: $63.3 billion.

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