Ethiopia: High remittance figures from World Bank ridicule national statistics

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The World Bank has challenged the National Bank of Ethiopia’s remittance inflow figures after a recent study indicated that the country receives at least 3.2 billion dollars yearly.

Notwithstanding its steady growth over the years, official reports from the National Bank Ethiopia (NBE) continue to put Ethiopia’s remittance inflow below one billion dollars.

Officials in the banking sector say the survey forwards “an astonishing amount”, figures that see the latest remittance inflow quadrupled to 3.2 billion dollars (52.8 billion Ethiopian birr, approximately).

In the budget year of 2008/09 alone Ethiopia earned about 723 million dollars from international remittances.

According to the survey’s estimation, 14 percent of Ethiopian adults regularly receive an average of 600 dollars from abroad, at an average of 120 dollars per transaction and five transactions a year.


But, the outcome of the research has “surprised” many in the financial sector. “We are astonished by the figures and I think it’s exaggerated,” a remittance expert from NBE said on condition of anonymity. According to him, Ethiopia needs “to look at the research first before responding to it.”

Another official in the private banking sector argues that the study’s inability to consider the Ethiopian fiscal date as a basis for research throws some serious doubts “over its outcome”.

However, the World Bank asserts that despite significant progress in remittance recording methods all over the world, most official statistics in sub-Saharan Africa still underestimate the true size of remittance flows.

A consultant on remittances at the World Bank, Professor Donald Terry said that it was not unusual that “people in Ethiopia are surprised”.

“This is a typical reception that you get when you release an estimate of this kind,” he said. “The methodology used for the study is very accurate… it caused the same kind of stir across the world when it was first used ten years ago” says Prof. Terry.

The expert also believes that considering the significant number of Diaspora Ethiopians the accuracy of the World Bank figures is highly probable. Reports estimate that between 1.5 million and 2 million Ethiopians are living abroad.

“We are not trying to get into any confrontation and it’s simply to say that there are certain types of methodologies which are very difficult for official data collection to reflect accurately and this is one of them,” he said.

The professor urged the national bank to engineer a type of methodology for data collection that tracks back both informal and formal channels.

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