Staff Reporter

India largest recipient of remittances

KOCHI: The remittance industry is a booming market, growing at an annual rate of 8 per cent, said Hikmet Ersek, senior vice-president of Western Union Financial Services for Europe, West Asia, Africa and South Asia. He was talking to reporters here on Friday on the occasion of a four-day South East Asia conference of the agents of the firm.

The global market value of the remittance industry is $250 billion. The official remittances sent to developing countries exceeded $167 billion in 2005, according to the company.

India is the largest recipient of remittances in 2005, according to the Global Economic Prospects report of the World Bank. Worker remittances to India exceeded $23 billion in 2005. This constitutes almost 3 per cent of India's GDP, Mr.Hikmet said.

Western Union Services India Limited has more than 28,000 location network. Primary agents of Western Union in India include Karnataka Bank, Lord Krishna Bank, Andhra Bank, Bank of Punjab, ING Vysya Bank and India Post.

The company has a global market share of 14 per cent. It works with governments, helping to curb money laundering, he said. The company verifies the names of suspected recipients as per the list supplied by the authorities in a bid to curb money laundering. The transaction is suspended whenever the recipient's complicity in money laundering is established.

According to RBI guidelines on money transfer, remittances may be for personal use only. No single remittance may exceed $2,500 per transaction and a receiver can receive a maximum of 12 transactions in a year. Cash is paid only if the amount is up to Rs.50,000. For any amount exceeding this would be paid by cheque.

The company is planning to expand its operations to rural areas. It operates from about 2200 locations in Kerala. The number of its locations will double in five years, he said. There network will have 50,000 locations across India soon, he said.