PORT-AU-PRINCE – Haitians living abroad sent more than $1.65 billion to their homeland in 2006, according to estimates released here today by the Inter-American Development Bank’s Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF).
These remittances sent by members of the 1.5 million-strong Haitian diaspora represent the equivalent of more than one-third of Haiti’s gross national product. Around $1.17 billion of the total was sent from the United States, which has large Haitian communities in Miami, Boston and New York.
The MIF based its estimate on information obtained through a survey conducted among Haitians who receive remittances. Other sources of money transfers to Haiti were Canada (about $230 million in 2006), France ($130 million), the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas (around $33 million each). Smaller amounts were sent from Martinique, Guyana and Spain.
The survey was coordinated by the Miami-based polling firm Bendixen & Associates, which has done work for the MIF in several Latin American and Caribbean countries as well as in the United States, Spain, Portugal and Japan. The door-to-door poll involved 1,724 Haitian adults and was conducted in Creole in November and December 2006. The survey’s margin of error is 2%.
About 1.1 million adults in Haiti receive remittances, typically 10 times a year, at an average of $150 at a time. About half the families that receive money from abroad have incomes of less than $500 a year.
Most Haitians who receive remittances use the money to cover basic expenses. However, many families manage to save a portion of their money or invest it in small businesses, home improvements or the education of their children.
The results of the survey will be the focus of a Tuesday, March 6 conference with government authorities, diaspora leaders, NGO delegates, bankers, money transfer agents and academics. The conference will be held at the Karibe Convention Center in Port-au-Prince, starting at 9 a.m.
The MIF, an autonomous fund administered by the IDB, supports private sector development in Latin America and the Caribbean, with an emphasis on microenterprise and small business. It started studying remittances in the year 2000 to gauge their volume and impact in the region.
Through its activities the MIF has promoted competition among remittances service providers, encouraging financial institutions to become more involved in a business traditionally dominated by money transfer companies. In the MIF’s view, remittances could be the key to bringing millions of low-income Latin American and Caribbean families into the formal financial system.
The MIF also finances projects that seek to leverage the economic impact of remittances, such as expanding access to microcredit and home loans.