Thursday, January 29, 2009

Does Mexico’s Falling Remittance Trend Bode Ill For The Philippines?

Mexico’s remittances suffered its first decline since remittance trends have been recorded. From Bespoke Invest, ``According to Mexico's central bank, remittances during 2008 to Mexico by Mexican workers in the US had their first ever annual decrease since the central bank began tracking these statistics in 1995.”

Courtesy of Bespoke

Why? Possibly because a big chunk of the Mexico’s migrant workers have been exposed to heavily affected industries. According to the Wall Street Journal, ``Mexico's Central Bank in October revealed just 5% of migrants today work on U.S. farms, while 38% are in construction and manufacturing, and another 57% in services.” (bold highlight mine)

Many of the economies in the emerging markets depend on remittances for growth, according anew to the Wall Street Journal, ``In the past two decades, workers in poor countries have grown increasingly dependent on job opportunities in countries experiencing sustained growth -- the U.S. for Latin American and Caribbean migrants; Western Europe for Africans and Eastern Europeans; the Gulf Emirates for Pakistanis and Filipinos…Remittances are the single largest source of national income in many countries. The Inter-American Development Bank reports high levels of dependence in Haiti (26%), Guyana (24%), Jamaica (18.5%) and El Salvador (18%).”

Nonetheless, rate of change on Mexico’s remittances has been on decline for a string of months, again from Bespoke, ``thirteen months where remittances have been negative, nine of them occurred during 2008.”

As for the Philippines, remittance trends continue to manifest robust growth: 14.1% during fourth quarter and 15% in first 11 months (Bloomberg) even as the government projects growth figures to moderate to 6-9% for 2009. We aren't confident with the optimistic forecasts.
Courtesy of DBS

Albeit the rate of growth underpinning the local remittance trends, despite the near nominal record levels, seems to be already tapering off.

While it is safe to lean on the camp that says remittance trends should decline similar to that of Mexico, especially based on the assumption that global economic growth seems likely to materially slow, or at worst, deteriorate sharply, one must be reminded that the composition of labor exports is distinct among emerging market economies, aside from the share of remittance to the national income. This implies that the sensitivity of remittances to the global slowdown could vary among EM economies.

Next, we aren’t fully convinced with the mainstream view that last quarter’s world merchandise trade crash portends of a worsening of the global trade trends. While we agree that world trade will definitely slow, the Lehman inspired October crash could account for as a banking induced credit trade finance “shock”, and may somewhat recover gradually than an outright slump. The evidence of economies resorting to go barter [see Does Growing World Barter Trade Suggests Of Bigger Cracks In Today's Monetary Order?] as alternative means of trade suggest of these.

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