Calls for Australia to use G20 presidency to cut remittance costs
There are calls for Australia to use its G20 presidency to cut the costs incurred by migrants wanting to send money home to their relatives in developing countries.
Foreign workers in Australia send around $4.5 billion each year to friends and family living in Asia and the Pacific, with banks and money transfer companies pocketing around $450 million.
Money sent home to relatives often helps the poorest people to access food, education for their children and medical treatment.
In Asia, remittances play a vital role in helping people get out of poverty, while in the Pacific, experts say they keep whole nations afloat.
"The Pacific Islands, in particular Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, but now also other countries like Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, are big remittance receiving countries," World Bank remittance specialist, Carlo Corazza toldPacific Beat.
"Tonga and Samoa depend on remittances for a quarter of their GDP approximately.
"That means that if tomorrow remittances stopped flowing to these countries, basically a quarter of the national GDP would be vanished."
The costs of sending money to developing countries is high, with banks often retaining more than $30 out of a $200 payment being sent.
Don Abel, a former deputy-governor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, and others, want the Australian Government to use its presidency of the G20 next year to bring down the cost of remittances.
"It has been on the agenda of the G20 now since 2011 but, in fact, it started with the G8 in 2009," he said.
"This is the final year before the completion of the five years that the two organisations have been focussed on trying to reduce the costs.
"The original intent was to move the costs down to 5 per cent over five years."
Mr Abel says the end of the Australian G20 presidency provides a good opportunity to bring the issue forward.
He says Australia and New Zealand both have large immigrant populations who send money back home to their families.
In the last few years the cost of sending money from Australia has been cut in half as banks, money transfer companies and the government worked in their own ways on the G20 agenda.
But Mr Abel says it is not enough.
"Yes, it has come down, but at 10 per cent it is still very high and we know that if you were to use electronic means, and use them widely, then the cost can come down even further," he said.
Mr Able says the G8 and the G20 both think lowering the fee to 5 per cent is "quite attainable".
"That is a target that has been decided from across the world - not just from Australia, not just from New Zealand or the Pacific area," he said.
Tongan workers in Melbourne want costs cut
Reverend Jason Kioa works with the Tongan community in Melbourne and says his parishioners, particularly factory workers and fruit pickers, are keen to see change.
"Most of them - maybe 80 per cent - would take a small amount like $200 sent to Tonga regularly, maybe weekly or fortnightly, and they still have to pay these charges," he said.
"I would like to see the government addressing that and asking these institutions to be mindful of these third world countries wanting to get off the ground.
"These charges are just too much for them."
Mr Corazza says on a global scale remittances sent to individuals are an effective corruption and waste-free tool for development.
"They know better than us how to use the money," he said.
"They know better than us how to spend it and how to invest it."
Mr Corazza says if the G20 goal is reached, migrants could save approximately $US35 billion every year.
"It's a huge amount of money," he said.
"It is money migrants would keep in their pocket."