Phoenix In Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, and Hamilton ACORN International and ACORN Canada joined today to dramatically step up the international campaign to achieve improved access and fair pricing for remittances from immigrant families and their relatives in their home countries.
Today in Toronto Kay Bisnah, President of ACORN International, also unveiled an extensive report underpinning the campaign called Past Time for Remittance Justice (a copy is available at www.remittancejustice.org or www.acorninternational.org). The report is the result of months of work and research by a multi-national research team including a battery of student interns with ACORN International at George Brown College in Toronto as well other researchers in Baltimore, Little Rock, and New Orleans joined with ACORN International and its federated organizations and staff in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. In a survey of costs focusing on major global banking institutions as well as Western Union and MoneyGram, ACORN International found that the costs are exorbitant and predatory and averaged more than double what the World Bank estimates current pricing.
President Bisnah is expected to ask Toronto Dominion at the release today in Toronto to set an early meeting with representatives of the organization in order to begin discussions on how remittance justice can be achieved as quickly as possible. Members of ACORN Canada will be demanding similar meetings with HSBC at the Canadian headquarters of the bank in Vancouver, while members in Ottawa will be pressing the Bank of Montreal for a meeting as soon as one can be scheduled. In Ottawa demands are also going to be made for Canadian regulators to take up the issue of remittances and begin creating a mandatory and effective system.
The grid in the report shows costs can in some cases suck out almost half of the money being sent to families in home countries by as much as one dollar for every dollar being transmitted. In few cases were charges, commissions, and exchange rates taking less than twenty-five cents on the dollar. The report calls into question World Bank estimates of an average 10% cost factor and while adopting the World Bank goal of no more than 5% costs, ACORN International calls for the changes to be immediate and comprehensive, including both sending and receiving fees.
Remittances are huge and involve an estimate of over $430 billion with 75% going from developed countries like Canada and the United States to developing countries. Remittances are a substantial part of the gross national product (GNP) for many of the poorer countries and populations in the world.
ACORN International indicated that in coming weeks more banks will be targeted. Beginning next week the demands will spread first to Lima, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, San Pedro Sula, Tegucigalpa, and Santiago (Dominican Republic) as well as Nairboi, Kenya and Mumbai, Delhi, and Bangalore in India. ACORN International also intends to release the report and press demands with major banks headquartered in the United States, United Kingdom and elsewhere, as well as demand government accountability in the same locations.
The sum of remittances dwarfs all other forms of foreign aid and foreign direct investment in developing countries. A reduction from a 10% average transaction cost to a 5% average would move more than $20 billion in remittances to aid families. ACORN International believes there is nothing to justify existing charges, and seeks in the Remittance Justice Campaign to push charges to real and reasonable costs rather than the current global “highway” robbery of banks and transfer companies.
No doubt there will be a lot more to come, since these are big targets and this is a lot of money, but there is no question that justice must be come.