Remittances on the rise in Caribbean and Latin Ameicea

After what was considered to be a “rough 2009,” the World Bank says remittances are on the rise again in the Caribbean.

A briefing paper by the Washington-based financial institution says remittances “began to bottom out during the last quarter of 2009” and, as a result, “money transfers now appear to be on the rise” in Jamaica, Haiti and other places.

The briefing paper said remittances to Latin America and the Caribbean didn’t fall as sharply as private capital flows to the region, as investors pulled out of emerging markets.

The bank said remittances to Latin American and Caribbean nations sank 12 percent as the U.S. and global economies “hit the skids” last year.

Overall, World Bank researchers said remittances to the region are expected to increase this year by an estimated 5.7 percent and also grow in 2011.

But it said it probably won’t reach the levels of 2008.

Fueled by a desire to help relatives, the World Bank said remittances to Haiti are expected to increase this year.

The briefing paper said the post-earthquake decision to grant temporary protected status to 200,000 Haitians living in the United States illegally not only makes them eligible to work legally but could increase remittances by as much as US$360 million this year. Officially, about 1 million Haitians live abroad.

The bank said the Haitian Diaspora sent an estimated US$1.32 billion in remittances to their homeland Haiti last year, down from US$1.41 million recorded the previous year. In 2008, remittances accounted for a fifth of the Haitian economy.

Jean-Marc Piquion, a vice president at Hollywood, Florida-based Unitransfer, a unit of Unibank, Haiti’s largest commercial bank, said business has tapered off slightly.

“Of course, we saw an increase immediately after the earthquake,” he said. “Family members were frantically trying to send cash.”

Although the company has seen an uptick of new customers sending money to Haiti, he said the current average money transfer from Florida to Haiti is between US$110 to US$115, a slight decrease from last year.

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