OFW remittances from the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar fall

Above, Filipino workers returning home from Kuwait arrive at Manila International Airport on February 18. (AFP)
Updated 16 October 2018
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OFW remittances from the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar fall

  • ‘The countries that contributed to the decline in August 2018 are the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar’
  • The three Gulf countries, together with the US, Singapore, Japan, UK, Canada, Germany and Hong Kong, make up to 79 percent of the total remittances regularly sent to the Philippines

DUBAI: The repatriation of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) from Middle East countries – where a major portion of remittances originate – contributed to a decline in money sent to the Philippines in August this year, government data said.
“The countries that contributed to the decline in August 2018 are the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar,” the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said on Monday. The three Gulf countries – together with the US, Singapore, Japan, UK, Canada, Germany and Hong Kong – make up to 79 percent of the total cash remittances regularly sent to the country.
The Philippine central monetary authority reported that cash remittances from overseas Filipinos dipped 0.9 percent to $2.476 billion in August, from $2.499 billion sent during the same month in 2017. Around 10 million Filipinos work overseas and usually are the breadwinners of families back home, providing for most of household budgets and contributing nearly 70 percent of overall national output.
Cash sent from the UAE by Filipinos fell by 36.4 percent to $175.02 million in August, from $275.31 million of the same month last year, while cash remittances from Saudi Arabia went down 20.7 percent to $180.9 million from $228.15 million while Qatar-based OFWs meanwhile sent $68.85 million during the same month, 35.3 percent less than the $106.47 million remitted in August 2017. Among other Gulf countries, remittances from Kuwait slipped 17.4% to $61.3 million from $74.05 million; it was down 37.3 percent in Oman to $17.71 million from $28.24 million previously, but was up 3.4 percent in Bahrain to $19.494 million from $18.85 million a year earlier.
For the eight-month period to August, OFW cash remittances rose 2.5 percent to 19.06 billion, from $18.6 billion during the same period last year. Those sent by land-based OFWs increased by 2.1 percent to $15.05 billion while cash remittances of sea-based overseas Filipinos went up 3.8 percent to $4.01 billion as of August.
In the UAE, the Philippine government recently conducted its sixth mass repatriation of Filipino nationals – mostly victims of illegal recruitment – to take advantage of the three-month amnesty program implemented by the Gulf country. Overstaying expatriate workers who wanted to leave the UAE for their home countries were allowed to exit without the payment of fines or jail terms. So far, 1,842 OFWs have been repatriated from the UAE and the number may further increase before amnesty program ends on October 31.
The Philippines earlier this year also repatriated Filipino workers from Kuwait, triggered by the death of a household service worker whose body was found stuffed in a freezer inside an abandoned apartment, as well as imposed a deployment ban after an ensuing diplomatic row over the protection migrant workers in the Gulf state. The dispute was resolved after an agreement signed in May between the two countries offered better protection for expatriate Filipinos, especially those working as housemaids.


No need for more talks over draft budget: Lebanon finance minister

Updated 29 min 8 sec ago
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No need for more talks over draft budget: Lebanon finance minister

  • Lebanon’s proposed austerity budget may please international lenders but it could enrage sectors of society
  • Lebanon has one of the world’s heaviest public debt burdens at 150 percent of GDP

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s finance minister said on Tuesday there was no need for more talks over the 2019 draft budget, seen as a vital test of the government’s will to reform, although the foreign minister signalled the debate may go on.
The cabinet says the budget will reduce the deficit to 7.6% of gross domestic product (GDP) from last year’s 11.2%. Lebanon has one of the world’s heaviest public debt burdens at 150% of GDP.
“There is no longer need for too much talking or anything that calls for delay. I have presented all the numbers in their final form,” Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said.
But Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil suggested the debate may go on, telling reporters: “The budget is done when it’s done.”
While Lebanon has dragged its feet on reforms for years, its sectarian leaders appear more serious this time, warning of a catastrophe if there is no serious action. Their plans have triggered protests and strikes by state workers and army retirees worried about their pensions.
President Michel Aoun on Tuesday repeated his call for Lebanese to sacrifice “a little“: “(If) we want to hold onto all privileges without sacrifice, we will lose them all.”
“We import from abroad, we don’t produce anything ... So what we did was necessary and the citizens won’t realize its importance until after they feel its positive results soon,” Aoun said, noting Lebanon’s $80 billion debt mountain.
A draft of the budget seen by Reuters included a three-year freeze on all forms of hiring and a cap on bonus and overtime benefits.
It also includes a 2% levy on imports including refined oil products and excluding medicine and primary inputs for agriculture and industry, said Youssef Finianos, minister of public works and transport.
“DEVIL IN THE DETAIL“
Marwan Mikhael, head of research at Blominvest Bank, said investors would welcome the additional efforts in the latest draft to cut the deficit.
“There will be some who claim it is not good because they were hit by the decline in spending or increased taxes, but it should be well viewed by the international community,” he said.
Jason Tuvey, senior emerging markets economist at Capital Economics, said: “The numbers will be of some comfort to investors, but the devil will be in the detail.”
“Even if the authorities do manage to rein in the deficit, it probably won’t be enough to stabilize the debt ratio and some form of restructuring looks increasingly likely over the next couple of years,” Tuvey said.
The government said in January it was committed to paying all maturing debt and interest payments on the predetermined dates.
Lebanon’s main expenses are a bloated public sector, interest payments on public debt and transfers to the loss-making power generator, for which a reform plan was approved in April. The state is riddled with corruption and waste.
Serious reforms should help Lebanon tap into some $11 billion of project financing pledged at a Paris donors’ conference last year.
Once approved by cabinet, the draft budget must be debated and passed by parliament. While no specific timetable is in place for those steps, Aoun has previously said he wants the budget approved by parliament by the end of May.
On Monday, veterans fearing cuts to their pensions and benefits burned tires outside the parliament building where the cabinet met. Police used water cannon to drive them back.