OFWs' contributions to PH economy cited in forum

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 21 2015 07:47 AM | Updated as of Feb 21 2015 03:47 PM

MANILA, Philippines - With an estimated 230 million migrants globally in 2013, migration has become a phenomenon of today’s interconnected world that continues to grow in scope, complexity and impact.

Majority of the migrant population are overseas workers finding job opportunities in another country.

In Asia Pacific, there are more than 30 million migrant workers, and an estimated 2.2 million of them are Filipinos.

Despite the scale and relevance of migration in Asia and in the Philippines, appropriate financial products and services remain out of reach for many migrant workers and their families.

Studies showed that less than 10 percent of global remittances are used for investments with a long-term impact, limiting possible progress for migrant workers and their families.

The Inclusive Development and Migration Forum 2015, held in Singapore on February 6, brought together policy makers, thought leaders and industry practitioners from across Asia Pacific, and attempted to address a wide range of issues around financial inclusion and the economic empowerment of migrant workers.

The Forum, organized by ASKI Global in partnership with Citi Foundation, examined four critical areas: (1) Leveraging Remittances for Development; (2) Financial Capability and Technology; (3) Crossborder Microfinancing; and (4) Encouraging Social Entrepreneurship for an Inclusive Future.

In his speech, Finance Undersecretary Gil S. Beltran cited the contributions of migrant workers to improving the lives not only of their families, but also their communities, and even to national economies.

“In the Philippines, the steady stream of remittances has played a vital role in the economy – reversing the boom-and-bust cycle of the last decade. It led to the national savings rate rising above domestic investment rate, and the accumulation of foreign reserves. It strengthened balance of payments and bolstered the country’s current account position, enabling to withstand the volatilities of the world economy,” Beltran said.

Just as importantly, Beltran added that: "It [remittance] has improved the living standards of the recipient families. It led to an enlarged middle class, creating an expanding market for goods and services. Further, it has spawned an industry that enhances wealth creation – advising/managing funds and real estate properties for this nascent middle class."

“The Inclusive Development and Migration Forum successfully facilitated regional collaboration and the exchange of ideas among public, private and non-profit sectors to unlock the potential of migration for inclusive development. We are thankful for Citi Foundation’s support in this partnership to enable the progress of and empower migrant workers through financial and entrepreneurial capabilities,” said ASKI Global Chief Executive Officer Irma L. Cosico.

Citi Commercial Bank Head for Singapore Hsiu-Yi Lin said Citi and Citi Foundation place a strong emphasis on financial inclusion, which may be achieved by providing financial access as well as enabling financial capability.

"This Forum is a continuation of our partnership with ASKI Global, which started with the Citi-ASKI Overseas Workers Financial Stability Program to help equip migrant workers in Singapore with the knowledge and skills to build assets and achieve their short and long-term financial goals. To date, 492 migrant workers have attended the Program and 90% are now savers with 50% investing their savings in microenterprises back in Philippines," Lin said.

This year, the Citi-ASKI Overseas Workers Financial Stability Program will be expanded to include an Advanced Financial Education Course covering topics of personal finance, investments and insurance.

About 400 Filipino migrant workers are expected to benefit from the Program.

Further extending the reach of the Program, ASKI Global will also be establishing institutional partnerships with churches, hospitals and construction companies to provide condensed financial education training to an additional 600 low-income migrant workers in Singapore.

Attending the Inclusive Development and Migration Forum are delegates from around the region. The speakers included Commission on Filipino Overseas Secretary Imelda Nicolas, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas consultant for microfinance Eduardo Jimenez, Asian Venture Philanthropy Network Managing Director Kevin Teo, Institute for Social Entrepreneurship in Asia President Marie Lisa M. Dacanay and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Financial Facility for Remittances Manager Pedro De Vasconcelos.