Filipino expat workers’ cash flow nears record high

In 2017, money transfers from migrant workers totaled $31.29 billion. (AFP)
Updated 29 December 2018
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Filipino expat workers’ cash flow nears record high

  • Cash remittances from the Middle East from January to October stood at $5.43 billion, down from $6.46 billion in 2017
  • Remittances from Europe rose by 8.7 percent to $3.44 billion from $3.16 billion, boosted mainly by the earnings of Filipino seamen

MANILA: Cash remittances by Filipino migrant workers worldwide could reach a record high this year despite a steep fall in money transfers from the Middle East.
A Philippines congressman, Leyte Rep. Henry Ong, said on Thursday that remittances remained on track to reach $31 billion this year.
Figures from the Philippines Central Bank (BSP) show an increase in money transfers from Africa, Europe, the Pacific islands, the US, Canada, and parts of Asia.
“Personal remittances from Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) already total $26.5 billion from January to October, so the $31 billion mark is almost certain,” Ong, chairman of the House Committee on Financial Intermediaries, said in a statement sent to Arab News.
Since money transfers usually peak in December, it is likely the $31 billion figure will be exceeded, he said.
In 2017, money transfers from migrant workers totaled $31.29 billion. “So we could have a new record high this year, but the country must not be complacent in the years ahead,” Ong said.
While transfers from most areas of the world rose, remittances from migrant workers in the Middle East fell by $1.03 billion in the first 10 months of 2018. Ong said that the government should revise its migrant worker strategy following the decline in Middle East transfers.
Filipino migrants should be brought home or redeployed to other countries to minimize the Philippines’ dependence on the economic fortunes of the Middle East.
“OFWs pump more funds into the Philippines economy than foreign investors,” Ong said.
Cash remittances from the Middle East from January to October stood at $5.43 billion, down from $6.46 billion in 2017. Transfers from Saudi Arabia were down 11.1 percent, while remittances from Kuwait fell by 18.2 percent. In Bahrain, transfers were down by 9.6 percent, and in the UAE by 11.1 percent.
Ong called on economic planners to forge new bilateral migrant workers’ agreements with the emerging economies of Africa, South America, and eastern and northern Europe.
“These regions are where economic growth is happening and where migrant workers should be providing much-needed professional and technical manpower,” he said.
Of the estimated 2.3 million Filipino migrant workers, about half work in the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia the leading destination.
BSP figures show that from January to October this year, remittances from Africa totaled $113.23 million, up from $92.3 million during the same period in 2017.
Remittances from Europe rose by 8.7 percent to $3.44 billion from $3.16 billion, boosted mainly by the earnings of Filipino seamen. Significant amounts also came from nurses and engineers, farm laborers and household helpers.
Remittances from the Pacific island nations grew by 11.5 percent to $647 million. Much of that came from New Zealand ($199.11 million; up by 88 percent).
Transfers from Australia fell by 17.2 percent to $350.59 million.
Over $10 billion in remittances came Filipinos working in North America. Transfers from the US totaled $8.2 billion, a 6 percent rise, while transfers from Canada rose to $806.36 million, a 54.1 percent jump.
Transfers also surged from five countries in Asia: Taiwan $475.47 million (47.9 percent), Malaysia $378.13 million (42.4 percent), South Korea $274.44 million (21.8 percent), Vietnam $60.78 million (21.4 percent), and Macau $101.63 million (20.4 percent).


Germany in push to resurrect talks with Taliban

Updated 26 May 2019
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Germany in push to resurrect talks with Taliban

  • Only the Afghans ‘can decide upon the future of their country’

KABUL, BERLIN: Germany, a leading donor and member of the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan, has been talking with the Taliban and the Afghan government in an effort to restart peace talks to end 18 years of conflict, officials said.

While the Taliban have been talking with US officials since October about withdrawal of international troops, they have so far refused formal talks with the Western-backed government, which they dismiss as a “puppet” regime.

Berlin’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Markus Potzel, has visited Kabul for talks with the Afghan government and met Taliban officials in Doha at least twice this month.

“The current chance for a process toward a more peaceful Afghanistan should not be missed. If the friends of Afghanistan — and Germany is one of them — together can help in this effort, then we should do it,” Potzel said.

“In the end, only the Afghans themselves, including the Taliban, can decide upon the future of their country.”

The chief US negotiator in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, in March said that a draft agreement had been reached on a withdrawal of US forces in exchange for a commitment by the Taliban to cut ties with militant groups such as Al-Qaeda.

But there has been no agreement yet on a cease-fire or a start to talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, both seen as key conditions for a settlement.

An Afghan delegation had been due to meet Taliban officials in the Qatari capital Doha last month to build the basis for possible negotiations, but the meeting was canceled at the last minute after a dispute over the number of participants.

FASTFACT

 

● At least 3,804 Afghan civilians were killed in the war last year. ● 14,000 US troops are still stationed in Afghanistan.

“We realize that US-Taliban talks will gain momentum only if the insurgent leaders start engaging with the Afghan representatives,” a senior German official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Sohail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Doha, said that Germany was one among several countries to have offered help to seek a peaceful resolution. 

The EU and Indonesia are among those to have offered help, another Taliban official said, declining to be named.

Discussions were held with Germany about an Afghan-Taliban meeting in Germany but no decision has been made, Shaheen told Reuters.

 

Captives subjected to abuse

Afghan captives held by the Taliban have been subjected to abuse, ill-treatment and actions that may amount to torture, the UN said on Sunday.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said it interviewed 13 detainees from a group of 53 recently rescued from the Taliban, mainly members of Afghan forces but also civilians and government officials captured by the insurgents.

The group was freed on April 25 when Afghan troops raided a Taliban-run detention facility in the Khas Uruzgan district in southern Uruzgan province.

Most of the captives were held since 2018, with three since 2016, the UNAMA statement said, adding they were kept in poor conditions and subjected to forced labor. It cites the detainees as saying that the Taliban killed some of their captives.

“I am gravely concerned about these serious allegations of ill-treatment, torture and unlawful killing of civilians and security personnel, as well as the deplorable conditions of detention,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the head of UNAMA.

The detainees were shackled while in captivity and almost all said they were beaten. The Taliban told them it was punishment for supporting the government, working with the Americans or fighting the insurgents.