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Last Updated: Monday, 19 March 2007, 03:15 GMT
L America migrant money tops aid
By Duncan Kennedy
BBC News, Mexico City

US dollar bills
Remittances could reach $100bn in four years' time
The amount of money sent home by Latin American migrant workers to their families has reached more than $62bn.

This figure now exceeds the combined total of all direct foreign investment and foreign aid to Latin America.

According to the Inter-American Investment Bank, the figure could reach $100bn in four years' time.

The biggest share of money, $23bn, was sent back to Mexico, mostly from workers living in the United States remitting small sums each month.

Foreign remittances now rank along with oil and tourism as Mexico's biggest foreign currency earner.

The Inter-American Development Bank, which supports the region with aid and other help, says the remittances will increase by about 15% a year during the next four years.

The bank describes the money as a very effective poverty reduction programme because it keeps between 8m and 10m families above the poverty line.

But it says it also means the economies of the region are not generating enough jobs to keep workers from leaving in the first place.

Another problem is that much of the money is sent back in small amounts and so it is difficult to track.

The average is between $100 and $150 a month.

That in turn makes it an unpredictable source of revenue for governments to tap into.

The bank says it wants people to get away from what it calls cash to cash flows and into account to account transfers but the bank says the recent crackdown on illegal immigrants by the US authorities could hinder efforts to get migrants to use banks.

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