'Make investors of OFWs, not buyers of goods'

By Estrella Torres, BusinessMirror

Posted at Feb 19 2013 08:57 AM | Updated as of Feb 19 2013 06:56 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The head of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) said the annual $23 billion in remittances from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) should translate into investments generated instead of the money being spent on consumer goods.

CFO Secretary Imelda Nicolas said the Philippines is now at the “tail end of the fourth decade of massive migration phenomenon” but there has not been concrete economic gains besides the remittances, which continue to buoy the country’s economy amid the global financial crisis.

She told delegates to the High-Level Discussion on Migration Policy held recently at Sofitel hotel in Pasay City that the government should begin to develop a “sunset” provision or an exit strategy on the massive migration phenomenon.

“We can start by transforming a critical mass of migrant households from consumer units to production units, from a pattern and behavior of remittance utilization that is geared toward consumer spending usually on non-essential and non-productive activities to a mindset of production and investment in viable enterprises and economic initiatives anchored on local development plans and toward wealth generation,” Nicolas said.

The CFO will host the second Global Summit of Filipinos in the Diaspora to be held in Manila from February 25 to 27 to explore options to translate OFW remittances into new businesses in the country.

Nicolas said the government, through the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) and key agencies on migration, should start financial literacy and financial education training to help the OFWs and their families learn entrepreneurship and business development.

According to her, the Philippines has established legal and institutional infrastructure to deploy people abroad but has not managed to “respond to complexities and challenges of international migration.”

The World Bank estimates the Philippines receives $21 billion to $23 billion in OFW remittances annually, considered as the world’s third-largest next to India and China.