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An indepth analysis of migration

Migration has played an important role on the course of development of many developing countries.

This is particularly so with respect to South Asia. Migration, Remittances and Development in South Asia, edited by Saman Kelegama, explores the impact of migration on development in South Asian countries and makes recommendations for benefiting more from out-migration and reducing the ill effects of it. It is policy oriented and recommends policies for each of the eight countries and the region as a whole. There is also a proposal for a Commission on migration in South Asia.

The Institute of Policy Studies Executive Director Dr Saman Kelegama presenting his latest book on Migration, Remittances and Development in South Asia to Foreign Employment Minister Dilan Perera.

BOOK REVIEW

Migration, Remittances and Development in South Asia
Saman Kelegama (Editor), Sage Publications, India, pp. 372, 2011
Reviewed by Nimal Sanderatne

Remittances have tended to be viewed as an adjunct to issues in development despite its recognition as a contributor to various facets of development.

This book goes further to examine how migration should be brought into the mainstream of development planning and directed in a manner that migration, just as much as other population changes, are an integral part of the development factors.

It contends that development must be conceived of, and understood as, a dynamic process with the goal of enlarging the scope of human choices and creating an environment where citizens can live with dignity and equality. This book of 11 chapters consists three parts. It begins with an introduction to the book by the editor that brings out salient issues related to migration and gives an overview of the country studies and the policy recommendations.

This is invaluable to readers who may select only some case studies. The overview summarizes the features of each country situation and policy issues.

The second section has the eight country studies of South Asia. The third section consists of two chapters, one that argues the case for policy measures to improve the migration conditions and the other that argues for a Commission on migration in South Asia.

The eight chapters on the individual South Asian countries that are in-depth studies, document both the benefits and adverse impact of out-migration and highlights the problems and challenges faced by these countries. Most countries of South Asia depend on remittances to strengthen their balance of payments and contribute to GDP. More important is the fact that the living conditions of the poor have improved owing to remittances from migration. There are several problems encountered by the migrants and although livelihoods have improved, remittances have often resulted in aggravating inequality.

The book brings out these benefits and adverse impacts in a balanced manner.

Although the Indian diaspora is large and has been building up over the years, it is mostly the newer migrants to the Middle East that make a significant contribution to the country through remittances. Although India receives a large amount of remittance inflows, the largeness of the Indian economy makes such remittances contribute only three percent to GDP.

However, remittances have contributed to the alleviation of poverty and improvement of social welfare. The author of the chapter makes a special study of the effects of out-migration from Kerala.

The state of Kerala is the most significant in out-migration and out-migration from it has enabled families of migrants to buy land, improve housing, and invest in education and healthcare.

However, only a quarter of Kerala families benefited directly from remittances and since they were already better off than non-migrant families, out-migration has increased economic inequality.

In Pakistan, out-migration provided jobs and raised wages for workers who remained behind, but remittances flowed primarily to urban areas, increasing the rural-urban income gap and encouraging rural-urban migration.

Remittance levels have been rising and accounted for 10 per cent of GDP during peak times.

In the case of Sri Lanka, the significance of migration to the balance of payments and the economy is of such a magnitude that the Sri Lankan economy has been described as a remittance-dependent economy.

About 80 per cent of the huge trade deficit of US$ 5.2 billion in 2010 was offset by remittances from abroad.

It is estimated that remittances contributed eight per cent to GDP in 2008. The situation in Sri Lanka is very similar with Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan, where remittances are not only a support to the trade balance but an important way by which the country’s poverty is alleviated.

 

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