Macedonian Diaspora Money Exceeds FDI by 600 Percent

Macedonians working abroad sent a record 1.3 billion euros back home last year, at least six times more than the country attracted in foreign investment.

Private money transfers from Macedonians working abroad reached 1.366 billion euros in 2010, latest data from the Central Bank show.

This is some 230 million euros more than in 2009 and 380 million euros more than in 2008.

By comparison, Macedonia attracted only 222 million euros in Foreign Direct Investment, FDI, in 2010.

Most money comes from Macedonian communities in Australia, Canada, Switzerland and Italy, the data show. Macedonians employed in Afghanistan and Dubai are also contributing significantly to the total sum.

Local economic experts say the value of private money transfers is probably larger than data suggest, as some is sent in cash form and not registered by the authorities.

Experts note that private transfers of this kind make up some 20 per cent of the country’s GDP, feeding the country with fresh money and defending the stability of the national currency, the denar.

Some experts say more effort needs to be invested in mobilizing this significant financial resource, by encouraging the diaspora to invest its money in the local economy.

"The authorities should offer these people the same benefits they offer foreign investors,” Abdulmenaf Bexheti, an economics professor at the University of South-Eastern Europe, in Tetovo, says.

Macedonia's foreign trade deficit neared 1.51 billion euros in 2010. Exports covered only 60 per cent of the value of imported goods that year.

The country ended last year with minimal economic growth of just over 1 per cent. The government hopes it will reach 5 per cent in 2012 and 2013, matching the rate before before the global crisis struck in 2008.

The world downturn has crippled the country’s flagship metal and construction industries, which are responsible for much of the country’s exports.

No exact data exist on how many families in Macedonia subsist on the support of relatives working abroad but some experts suggest the likely figure is well over 100,000 families. 



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