Christmas cash transfers from Paris with love

16th December 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Dec 16 (AFP) - The queue of Ecuadorians, Colombians and Peruvians grows long in the small money transfer shop in central Paris, but there are smiles as those waiting think about what the euros they hold in their hands will mean to families they have not seen in years at Christmas time.

PARIS, Dec 16 (AFP) - The queue of Ecuadorians, Colombians and Peruvians grows long in the small money transfer shop in central Paris, but there are smiles as those waiting think about what the euros they hold in their hands will mean to families they have not seen in years at Christmas time.

"It's my duty. Sending this money is a way of being close to them," Alberto, a builder originally from Manizales in western Colombia, said.

He explained that the EUR 1,000 (USD 1,300) he had in his pocket to wire to relatives was the fruit of almost a year of saving by him and his wife.

Dozens of money transfer shops specialising in wiring cash abroad are scattered around Paris, competing for business from the city's big immigrant population.

Some, little illegal transaction concerns, open and disappear in the space of months, often because a registered competitor who is losing customers complains to police.

The services on offer vary from shop to shop, and the commissions are usually based on the reliability and speed of the transactions.

"To send my EUR 1,000, I paid EUR 37. This is a trustworthy company and the money will arrive in Colombia within a day. With other firms, I've paid almost EUR 100, but I knew that the money would be in my country 10 minutes later," Alberto said.

Patricia Prado, a Peruvian managing the money transfer company used by Alberto, said that customers pass more than EUR 100,000 a day over the counter in the run-up to Christmas, with the money being sent everywhere in the world but mainly to Latin America and Africa.

"We have had to bring down our commissions a lot to remain competitive, and now we offer better conditions than the big international companies," she said.

For EUR 100, the commission in Paris' wire offices is usually around EUR 6, dropping to around eight for EUR 200, and EUR 10 for EUR 300.

Each customer can send a maximum of EUR 7,600 per month, and any single amounts over EUR 3,000 have to be accompanied by documents showing where the money comes from - a measure to stop money laundering and tax evasion.

"For smaller amounts, we don't ask for any documents. We know that many of these people don't have papers and they have worked hard and honestly to send USD 200 (EUR 150) to their families," Prado said.

Cecilia, an employee in a dry cleaner's, and Roberto, a singer in a Paris club, arrived early to send EUR 200 to their families in Ecuador for the purchase of Christmas presents.

"If we kept this money for ourselves, our children would have a nicer Christmas in Paris, but we decided to send it to Quito. For our families, we represent hope. We want to show them that it was worth leaving everything behind six years ago to come to France," Roberto said.

According to the International Monetary Fund, around 60 percent of Latin American emigrants periodically send money back to their families.

The Interamerican Development Bank said that sum totalled USD 38 billion (EUR 28 billion) in 2003, with the bulk of it sent from the United States.

"That amount is higher than direct foreign investment and official development aid to the region," an IDB spokesman told AFP.

"In several countries, this money is more than the revenue earned from tourism, and in six of them, it is greater than 10 percent of their gross domestic product," he said.

The main countries benefiting from the flood of transfers are Mexico (which received USD 13 billion/EUR 9.7 billion in 2003), Brazil (USD 5 billion/EUR 3.7 billion), Colombia (USD 3 billion/EUR 2.2 billion). El Salvador, the Dominican Republic and Guatemala come next, each receiving around USD billion dollars (EUR 1.5 billion) from expatriates.

The IDB said the total was likely to be much bigger in 2004.

The bank has recommended that the G8 group of industrialised countries take steps to cut the cost of money transactions and introduce rules to enhance transparency for wire transfers as part of the effort to cut world poverty.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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