2015 Outlook, part 10By Randell Tiongson on February 1st, 2015
One of the big reasons why the Philippine economy remains to be in a positive track is because of the enormous remittances that our OFW heroes are sending home month after month. In 2014, the remittances exceeded $25 Billion and we are not expecting that to slow down anytime soon.
For this installation of the 2015 Outlook, I am featuring the views of an OFW himself, Burn Gutierrez. Burn is one of the driving force behind the increasing financial literacy of the OFW’s through his vast network of OFW’s world-wide. He is the founder of the OFW Usapang Piso, an on-line group that has over 33,000 members world-wide. An accountant by profession, he envisions seeing the OFW as financially enabled in the near future.
The 2015 Outlook of OFW Usapang Piso’s Burn Gutierrez
The year 2014 has been a year of new opportunities and challenges for OFWs especially in the Middle East. In Saudi Arabia, we saw thousands of undocumented OFWs or those whose visa sponsorships has either expired and have not been renewed by their respective employers repatriated to the Philippines.
There have also been a significant decrease in the number of OFWs in Saudi Arabia while more Filipinos have emigrated to Canada or the USA according to the statistics provided by the Commission on Filipinos Overseas. This could mean that many OFWs still view North America as the ultimate continent to immigrate to. I believe this migration trend will still continue this year.
Interestingly, BSP’s recent survey revealed that more Filipinos abroad and their families back home are allocating their remittances for savings and investments. The survey showed that OFW’s families savings increased to 42.1% in the last quarter of 2014 from the 39.7% in the previous quarter. Funds for investments also increased from 6.3% to 6.8%.
I would like to note and give credit to this development to a handful of financial literacy advocates and investment personalities who are gaining popularity on Filipino households abroad because of their exposure in Philippine TV shows streamed abroad by GMA PinoyTV, The Filipino Channel, and AksyonTV.
Another venue that will continue to aid the learning journey of OFW’s is the social media, especially the growing number of Facebook groups and pages that aim to educate Filipinos about paying consumer debts, saving for emergencies, insuring themselves, and investing in paper assets in addition to promoting traditional entrepreneurship. More OFW’s are starting to get information about affordable investing through the these social media groups and non-profit organizations online.
While this development do sound favorable, throngs of fraud schemes and online scams will still go after the hard-earned money of many OFW’s and their dependents this year. In the same manner, the combined vigilant effort of government agencies and non-profit organizations will help in identifying and fighting these scams.
The year 2015 will be a great year for many Filipinos to start their own businesses in the Philippines. Our OFW’s will realize this urgency considering the continuous falling of oil prices that may affect their current work overseas, most especially those who are working in the Middle East and the Americas. OFW’s should have this alternative plan while they still have their contract live in their respective countries of work.
Burn Gutierrez is an accountant and auditor based in Al Khobar in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He is the founder of the OFW Usapang Piso Facebook group and the Angat Pilipinas Coalition. Through his efforts, OFWs all over the world are becoming financially aware. His extensive experience in the auditing and finance has equipped him to help the plight of the OFW’s achieve financial freedom.