Sunday, March 16, 2008

Window on Eurasia: From Russia, Money – Transfer Payments Out Rose by 50 Percent in 2007

Paul Goble

Baku, March 17 – Migrant workers and Russians themselves sent 29.8 billion U.S. dollars abroad during 2007, 50 percent more than they sent in 2006 and a figure that was compensated only in part by the 10.2 billion U.S. dollars people abroad transferred into the Russian Federation last year.
Last Wednesday, the Russian Central Bank released detailed statistics on these flows, statistics that are likely not only to exacerbate Russian attitudes toward non-Russian migrants but also raise new questions about why Russians themselves are sending so much abroad (
Of the nearly 30 billion U.S. dollars transferred out of the Russian Federation, 9.7 billion was sent largely by migrant workers there to relatives in the former Soviet republics, the bank said. Nearly two billion was sent to Ukraine, 1.7 billion to Uzbekistan, 1.66 billion to Tajikistan and 1 billion to Armenia.
The average transfer payment by such migrant workers was 684 dollars, with Ukrainians slightly lower at 575 dollars and Armenians and Azerbaijanis higher at 855 and 864, respectively. In many cases, such transfers constitute a major fraction of the incomes of people in these countries, especially in rural areas.
But perhaps the largest transfer payments this year, the Russian Central Bank suggested, were made by ethnic Chinese, who the bank said sent 3.4 billion dollars home – 21,000 U.S. dollars per worker if one uses official statistics or something less than half that if one uses the larger and more generally credible unofficial numbers
Migrant workers from China, however, were not the primary source of transfer payments or the people sending the largest amounts out of Russia. Again, according to the central bank, Russians sent 2.8 billion dollars to Switzerland, and the average size of these transfers to that save harbor was 41,800 dollars last year.
In addition, the bank said, Russians transferred 1.5 billion U.S. dollars to the Netherlands, 1.1 billion to Great Britain, 896 million to the United States, and 871 million to Turkey. The average size of these transfers last year was 1725 dollars, 260 dollars more than in 2006.
At the same time the Central Bank said that the total amount of money being transferred into the Russian Federation rose by more than a third between 2006 and 2007, with the total for last year being 10.2 billion. Of that, most – 8.4 billion – came from beyond the borders of the former Soviet Union; only 1.9 billion came from CIS countries.
In reporting these figures, said that “the new record” will certainly be broken in the current year, with more money being sent to the CIS countries by migrants, even if their numbers decline, and with more Russians seeking to put their funds in safe havens.
But in a transparent effort to prevent anti-immigrant groups from exploiting these figures, noted that in 2007, migrants from the former Soviet republics contributed an estimated 50 billion U.S. dollars to the Russian economy, something that makes their transfers home seem small indeed.
And in order to suggest that Russians are not really afraid of the economic situation in their own country, the financial news portal cited statistics from the central bank showing that Russians were getting transfer payments back from Switzerland and other Western countries, albeit not as large as the ones they were sending there.

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