Tuesday, June 01, 2010
Quote: George Alagiah
Nigel and I are big fans of George Alagiah, reporter and newsreader for BBC. For years he was their foreign news correspondent. We are reading his second book now which deals with immigration, in particular to the UK. It is also an autobiography of his own experience coming to England as an 11 year old boy for boarding school. "Migration is rarely about severing one's links with the old country. It's not about burning your bridges once you've got across, it's about building the bridge in the first place. The whole point is that others might follow, or at the very least you'll be able to send something back. Sending out a migrant is like making an investment, it's like putting money away for a pension. Everyone who chips in to help fund the journey can expect to make a return." "As a system of shifting money from the rich world to the poor world it works. Indeed, it does so far more efficiently than most official aid programmes. According to the World Bank, in 2002, for the first time, remittances sent home by migrants exceeded the amount of cash that went to the poor world in the form of official aid or private bank loans. Petrol station attendants, pizza delivery boys, nurses and doctors - together they transferred some US$80 billion in that year. And this only accounts for the money that statisticians can keep track of; billions of dollars more find their way to every nook and corner of the world through informal distribution networks. In its report for 2005 the bank estimated that if you include unrecorded transfers, the amount of money that went to poor countries was more like $250 billion. When British politicians boast about their plans to increase the country's aid budget, it's worth remembering that they will have some catching up to do if they are to match the amount sent back by immigrants, most of them at the bottom of the social pile." "Unlike the official aid programmes, there are no expatriate staff on tax-free salaries, no local bureaucrats to be paid off. Governments are not deciding who should get the money, people are. And there is a far smaller risk that the money will be end up paying for some grandiose project to feed the vanity of a tinpot politician. The money transfers end up in new roofs for old houses, in school fees and medical bills, and every now and then in an airline ticket so the migrant son or daughter can return in triumph."