With $125 billion, India leads global remittance charts in 2023: World Bank report

The World Bank’s latest Migration and Development Brief reveals a continuing growth in remittance flows to low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) in 2023, albeit at a slower pace compared to previous years.

According to the World Bank, the report highlights India’s significant position as the top remittance recipient, drawing attention to the evolving dynamics in the remittance landscape.

Remittances to LMICs grew by an estimated 3.8 per cent in 2023, reaching a total of USD669 billion.

Resilient labour markets in advanced economies and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries played a pivotal role in supporting migrants’ ability to send money home.

The report suggests a potential risk of a decline in real income for migrants in 2024 due to global inflation and low growth prospects.

In the South Asian region, remittance flows to India experienced notable growth, contributing to the overall positive trend. South Asia, as a whole, witnessed a 7.2 per cent increase in remittances in 2023.

The Indian economy, buoyed by a tight labour market in the United States and robust employment growth in Europe, outperformed previous forecasts by reaching USD125 billion in remittances for the year.

Despite the positive trajectory, the report underscores challenges and potential risks. The Middle East and North Africa saw a decline in remittance flows for the second consecutive year, mainly driven by a sharp drop in flows to Egypt.

Remittance flows to Europe and Central Asia also decreased by 1.4 per cent after a significant gain in 2022. India retained its position as the largest recipient of remittances, with an estimated USD125 billion in 2023. This underscores the crucial role played by the Indian diaspora in supporting families and contributing to the country’s economic resilience.

The top five remittance recipient countries include Mexico (USD 67 billion), China (USD 50 billion), the Philippines (USD 40 billion), and Egypt (USD 24 billion).The report raises awareness about the potential impact of global economic conditions on remittance flows.

The expectation of weaker economic activity in several high-income countries and the prospect of weaker job markets may soften the growth of remittances to LMICs, projecting a 3.1 per cent increase in 2024.The need for caution is emphasized, considering volatile oil prices, currency exchange rates, and the possibility of a deeper-than-expected economic downturn in high-income countries.

The World Bank’s Remittances Prices Worldwide Database reveals that remittance costs remain persistently high, averaging 6.2 per cent to send USD 200 as of the second quarter of 2023.The report highlights that banks continue to be the costliest channel for sending remittances, with an average cost of 12.1 per cent.

A special section of the report emphasizes the potential of leveraging remittances for development finance, particularly through diaspora bonds.

Diaspora bonds can be structured to tap into diaspora savings held in foreign destinations, providing a stable source of funds.

The report suggests that remittances have surpassed the sum of foreign direct investment and official development assistance in recent years, presenting opportunities for private capital mobilization.

India’s prominence in the global remittance landscape is a testament to the significant role played by the Indian diaspora in supporting the country’s economy.

While challenges and risks persist, the report emphasizes the need for inclusive labour markets and social protection policies to sustain remittance flows, which serve as vital lifelines for developing countries like India.

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