Remittances fall eight per cent

A steady trend of monthly remittances rising since the COVID-19 state of emergency, has been broken as the amount sent home by overseas Samoans fell for the first time in five months in September, Central Bank data shows. 

On a monthly basis, remittances fell by 8.4 per cent in September - the first time they have declined month-on-month since April, the month after the state of emergency was declared by the Government.

The fall ends a consistent trend of month-on-month rises over the past five months. But on a yearly basis, the amount received by Samoans still represents a massive increase when compared to the amount sent home in the same month last year.

Compared to September 2019, remittances were higher by some 30 per cent this year, or nearly $12 million tala in total. 

Despite international economic forecasts that one of the most significant economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic would be a decline in international remittances, Samoa has defied those projections. 

The World Bank had forecast that remittances - which had been, along with tourism and aid the mainstays of the Samoan economy - would fall globally by as much as 20 per cent. 

But Samoa has defied that trend in spectacular fashion. 

Remittances have steadily increased since the month after the state of emergency was declared. (The state of emergency was declared in late March and money received fell immediately)

But since then remittances have grown steadily. From their yearly low of just over $36 million in April by August, that figure had surged to just under $55 million, growth of some 50 per cent. The increase was achieved as a result of steady month-on-month increases, some as high as 60 per cent. 

But by September that figure had declined for the first time since April, dropping 8 per cent to reach $50 million.

But that figure is an increase of more than 30 per cent when compared to the $38.3 million that Samoans sent to the country in September 2019. 

The data is revealed in the Visitor Earnings and Remittances Report for September 2020, published by the Central Bank of Samoa (C.B.S.) last week.

The report noted that despite the impacts of coronavirus also felt in Australia and New Zealand, they continue to be Samoa's strongest remittances markets.

For the month of September, a total of $20.38 million was received from New Zeland, funds from Australia reached $17.83 million, funds sent from American Samoa reached $3.42 million, remittances from the United States reached $5.46 million and Others sent in up to $2.89 million. 

With the exception of remittances sent in from 'Others', the remainder’s remittances had fallen compared to the previous month.

Individuals, Families and Households dominate as the recipient of the private remittances from overseas, receiving $45 million of the total private remittances in September, with churches, school and charities in second place with $3.58 million received.

"Similarly, [the] total inflow of private remittances in the first three months of [the] financial year (FY) 2020/21 improved by 14.8 per cent (or $20.6 million) to $159.4 million over the same period last year," the C.B.S. report reads.

"Largely responsible for the overall increase in the first three months were higher transfers from Australia ([which rose] $16.8 million), New Zealand ([which rose] $7.5 million) and American Samoa ([which rose] $5.3 million). 

"By recipient, total funds for ‘Family and Households’ and ‘in-kind’ increased by $46.8 million and $0.7 million respectively."

For the month of September, the inflow of remittances received through Money Transfer Operators increased to 89.8 per cent compared to 84.9 per cent in September 2019, whilst remittances sent received through commercial banks fell to 10.2 per cent from 15.1 per cent.

The report also shows that September is the sixth consecutive month Samoa recorded zero arrivals and visitors earnings, starting in April.

There is no expectation for the nil to change any time soon due to the continued closure of Samoa’s international borders with the exceptions of scheduled repatriation flights for only returning Samoan citizens.

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