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Hardship Sign: Incoming Wire Transfers 'Doubling'

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

The Bahamas is no longer "a sending country" for international wire transfers, money transmission providers revealed yesterday, with incoming transactions "doubling" due to COVID-19 hardship.

Harvey Morris, Omni Financial Group’s chief executive, told Tribune Business that incoming wire transfers had significantly increased as Bahamians and other nationalities living abroad sent in money to help relatives who have lost jobs and incomes here due to COVID-19.

"While we have seen a decline in overall transfers at this time, we have seen a significant increase in incoming wire transfers," he disclosed. "I can tell you that in recent times our incoming wire transfers have doubled. We've seen a significant jump on the incoming.

"People from everywhere are trying to help their family who are not working. This is always a very good indicator; wherever there is a challenge, an island with a challenge, we always see an increase in transfers to that destination. Everyone who has a little bit sends a little to help out someone not as well off as they are."

A spokesman for Sun Island Transfers, which trades as rival money transmission provider, Sun Cash, confirmed the trends detailed by Mr Morris. "Before the pandemic, the balance was clearly in favour of funds going out," they told Tribune Business of wire transfers involving The Bahamas.

"Now I would say the balance of funds coming and going out has offset. They are about equal. That says a lot. Before, The Bahamas was a sending country. Now it's equally a receiving country because people in-country are hurting."

The Bahamas has never figured prominently in international wire transfer surveys but has always been considered a net remitter of funds. The large expatriate Haitian, Jamaican, Filipino and Mexican/Dominican labour force regularly sends a significant portion of their wages to family living back home.

However, the surge in incoming wire transfers, and the fact they now equal the outgoing variety, further exposes the devastation inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic on the Bahamian economy through job and income loss, and the descent of many families into poverty and dependence on state benefits. It suggests persons are becoming increasingly reliant on friends and relatives abroad for support.

Mr Morris, meanwhile, hailed the Government's decision to allow money transfer businesses such as Omni to resume operations with effect from last Friday as it allowed numerous clients access to funds critical to keeping themselves and their families from hardship.

Besides placing the sector on 'a level playing field' with the banks and credit unions, Mr Morris added: "The big thing for us is we have a lot of clients who have incoming transfers and had been depending on us for access to those funds."

He said Omni acts as local agent for CAM, a US-based company that handles significant remittance flows to Haiti and other Caribbean nations. "During the shutdown we had been getting lots of calls from persons seeking to access their funds," Mr Morris continued.

"One of the calls I took this week, the client said once they got access to their funds they didn't have to be reliant on government's financial assistance as they would have their own money. I'm particularly happy we can now help those clients.

"We do micro loans, and a lot of clients had been looking to draw down on," he added. "Those micro loans that we were able to facilitate on Friday were for between $500 to $3,000. There are a lot of persons who need that.

"You may have one family member working but no one else, so they have to supplement their earnings from other income. We had quite a few releases of payments, loans that were approved before the shutdown, so we were able to accommodate that. We are also doing loans for the Small Business Development Centre, so we were able to facilitate that. There were lots of payouts, lots of outgoing payments that we had to settle."

The Sun Cash spokesman, meanwhile, said the money transmission sector's re-opening had again provided Bahamians - especially those living in remote Family Island communities - with access to financial services and electronic payments systems that helped sustain commerce throughout the archipelago.

"What has happened over these last five months with the lockdowns and social distancing, and need to limit people-to-people interaction, the market has really come to begin to see the value and the options they have to access their money electronically," they said.

Comments

bogart 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Seems inevitable, one factor of the more than 40,000 Work Permits in the country. The 40,000 Work Permits Labour Director figure cited just February gone. Given now that there are 40,000 Work Permit holders majority no longer working and likeky lesser, or no amount of income many are likely " marooned" in the Bahamas with rents, bills etc. Likely many of the 40,000 Work Permit holders and family with them would need to access weelky food handouts and essentials for them, children, spouse to survive. The increase in money transfers coming in from abroad, seems likely by overseas relatives, sources in position of some of the 40,000 Work Permit holders "marooned" in the Bahamas. These are tough times for everyone highest levels of Unemployment in the country with Authority Officials citing highest unemployment figures of some 40,000 persons.

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joeblow 7 months, 3 weeks ago

I wonder how many wire transfers coming from Haiti!

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DEDDIE 7 months, 3 weeks ago

It may not be from Haiti, but I know a Haitian guy living in Kentucky who sends his mother living in the Bahamas money on a regular basis.

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ThisIsOurs 7 months, 3 weeks ago

"While we have seen a decline in overall transfers at this time, we have seen a significant increase in incoming wire transfers," he disclosed."

Been saying this forever. When the PM shutdown wire transfer services during the first lockdown I really wondered what he was doing. Sure you had other nationalities sending money out the country but Bahamians were looking for money to survive.

I have no idea who is advising the PM but for the past 6 months they have inflicted cruel and unnecessary punishment on their own people while they sipped on wine and crumpets... I confess I have no idea what crumpets are but they must have some in the ivory tower. Come down and see what your people need. Stop listening to these buzzards around you looking to feed off carrion.

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ohdrap4 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Crumpets are not much different from english muffins. Do you have some grey poupon?

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UN 7 months, 3 weeks ago

I remember so many selfish comments over the years regarding ‘Haitians only come here to work and kindly send money to a poor nation to help relatives who don’t even reside here’. Then there were comments about U.S based Haitians helping to keep Haiti afloat (we think it’s a bad thing). It’s all about us $$$$$. Selfish. Now it’s their turn and they’re happily receiving help from people who don’t even live here. Pot meet kettle.

Many billionaires are expected to help people they don’t even know but poor people can’t help other poor people? Give it to us (we have it so good during good times we gambled away $600 million a year to help make 7-10 Bahamian sons rich). I wonder how many homes those sons have purchased for their own people? They live behind the gates...

Some people are forgetting this isn’t the time to taunt a poor country. Is tourism booming right now? Haiti 2.0 may be their future. Dorian led to them doing the same thing Haitians have done (flee their ‘beloved’ country).

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joeblow 7 months, 3 weeks ago

... you know well that the issue is not people coming to the Bahamas to work. The larger issue is people coming here illegally to compete for jobs with legal residents and citizens. Vast difference!

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DWW 7 months, 3 weeks ago

did they take your job? really?

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DWW 7 months, 3 weeks ago

i would bet that they would much prefer to do it legally if it possible and efficient. do you work at immigration?

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moncurcool 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Has there really been a surge in incoming wire transfers, or is it really just a significant decline in the outgoing transfers?

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Clamshell 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Uh ... read the second and third paragraphs of the story, maybe?

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moncurcool 7 months, 3 weeks ago

But paragraphs 5 and 6 are the total opposite. When you read the article there are different reasons. I do read before raining an issue.

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tetelestai 7 months, 3 weeks ago

I understand your point moncurcool. This is the typically poor writing of Neil Hartnell. But, when reading paragraphs 2, 3, 5 and 6, it appears that the point that is trying to be made is that there are more inflows than outflows.

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BONEFISH 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Bahamians don't talk about the bahamians living aboard.There are quite a few Bahamians living and making a good living in first world countries.

I know of a bahamian lady who had some funds wired to her from aboard.She used those funds to pay bills and buy groceries.

Bahamian history is not taught in the Bahamas There was a time when bahamian workers on the contract use to send moneys home to the Bahamas.That money was used to support families here..An elderly relative told me he worked as an agricultural worker in West Virginia in the fifties.He use to send home money to his mother also every week.

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bogart 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Good point of history. The 40,000 Work Permit holders I mentioned above does not include the OTHER 40,000 persons whose lives with jobs being interrupted in June cited by NIB Minister Brensil Rolle. It is expected that in ADDITION to the Work Permit holders mentioned by Labour Director John Pinder, would likely be MORE ....tens of thousands of Bahamians struggling, unemployed increased levels now below POVERTY LEVEL, and known country prior Covid in top ten most expensive country to live in. The incoming money transfers would likely be from thousands of Bahamians like Doctors, nurses, school teachers, high professionals relatives living abroad ...with disposable income or ability, capable of sending back money to assist Bahamian family.

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tom1912 7 months, 3 weeks ago

It is also a tad expensive to send money to the Bahamas, everybody has their hands in your pockets at every move! Unfortunately Transferwise is not operating in the Bahamas a very fast and safe way to transfer funds internationally! They work on having accounts in reputable banks in the countries which the transfers are being made between, you credit their account with local currency in your country they convert and transfer internationally to their account in the recipients country of residence and then transfer to the recipients account in their country of residence in the the local currency, they ttake debit as well as credit cards. Their fees are a bear minimum and there conversation rates are just about the commercial market exchange rate.

PS. plenty of crumpet [ Go for unadulerated English ones] images on Pinterest, lovely toasted and spread with butter which melts into the perforation, not a rich man/woman's :-) food though!

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DWW 7 months, 3 weeks ago

people gotta make a buck somehow

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