Dilip Ratha, Godfather of Research on Remittances

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 3/18/2008 04:28:00 AM
Ace migration reporter Jason DeParle has yet another fine feature for us, this time about the World Bank's resident expert on remittances, Dilip Ratha. Dr. Ratha is the pioneer in the study of global remittances, which now comfortably exceed foreign aid flows to the developing world. What follows is a brief snippet about how his modest upbringing in India has made him a concerned researcher about remittance flows. Do read the entire article if you have the time or inclination. What is particularly interesting to me is how this article has been the most e-mailed article on the International Herald Tribune website. Soon, I will post some research of my own on remittances, so do look out for that...

An important man from the World Bank recently arrived in this isolated village, where monkeys prowl rutted roads, rain pours through the school roof and the native son who achieved the most did so by going away. Lessons about global poverty were waiting, but so were his sisters' chapattis. Migrant and migration scholar, Dilip Ratha was home.

No one has done more than Ratha to make migration and its potential rewards a top-of-the-agenda concern in the world's development ministries. And no place has done more to shape his views than this forgotten hamlet, where he studied under the lone streetlight and began a poor boy's improbable journey to the front ranks of an elite field. "When I think about the effects of migration, I think about Sindhekela," he said.

Working from his office in Washington five years ago, Ratha produced the first global tally of remittances, the money that migrants send home, and stunned experts from himself on down with the discovery of their size. Gathered from a trickle of hard-earned cash, the sums now exceed $300 billion a year.

In subsequent work, Ratha, 45, has pushed to reduce money-transfer fees and increase the productivity of the money that is sent. Allies say his work has prompted projects in governments and beyond that could benefit millions of people. Skeptics argue that if migration brought development, Mexico would be Switzerland.

A soft-spoken man whose seeming diffidence disguises his drive, Ratha is gripped by his cause. "Some people say I paint too rosy a picture of migration and what it can achieve," he said. "But I realize the importance of dollars coming in because I know poverty firsthand." If he is enthusiastic about migration, he has lived it on especially favorable terms. He has never crossed borders illegally or worked with dirty hands. He commands a salary 100 times higher than he would if he had never left home. With it, he has educated two younger siblings, paid for a nephew's life-saving operation, and built a big house for his father...