IBNA Op-Ed/Although migrant workers contribute to economic development in Macedonia, their money circulates in short-term projects, while there are almost no investments in long-term projects
By Enisa Bajrami
Summer months in Macedonia are characterized by the arrival of migrant workers in their homeland. The whole of Macedonia, especially the western part, is paralyzed by lots of people, luxury cars, packed cafés and shops. The reality that we are facing with the arrival of migrant workers is reflected in the blocked roads, badly parked cars (lack of parking spaces), pedestrians who do not obey traffic signs, Albanian children who speak foreign languages and many other phenomena that are characteristic of our migrant workers.
According to local reports, the country’s economy flourishes when migrants return home. But what projects do our migrants invest in, living abroad for decades? How much does the Macedonian budget depend on their funds? Why do not we have any concrete investment in businesses by them, but we just witness megalomaniac weddings which they invest in?
Budget dependent on migrant workers’ funds
Economist Visar Ademi says budget in Macedonia depends a lot on the money that immigrants bring. According to him, cash transfers and remittances that migrants send to the country help our budget.
“With the funds they bring in Macedonia, their costs here and investments in real estate (houses and land) contribute to the economic development of the country”, said Ademi.
Bekim Bina from the World Bank in Skopje claims that one cannot reliably say how much or what way money flows here helping the stability and the exchange of the euro and the Macedonian denar.
“No one has so far dealt seriously with this issue and there is no credible analysis of this phenomenon. It is known that the balance of payments is paid from the migrant workers’ funds because Macedonia more imports than exports goods. But, this is called a negative balance of payments resulting in reduction of foreign exchange reserves”, says Bina.
According to Ademi, several factors affect migrants not to invest in Macedonia. He says that there are three specific reasons for this.
“The first reason is that our migrant workers have no confidence in the legal system and guaranteeing property in Macedonia (when talking about economic investments). In a country where nothing Albanian is safe, guarantying the capital is questioned. Secondly, migrant workers face bureaucratic procedures and corruption for investment in the homeland. And there are numerous examples of migrant workers who have come here and soon departed when faced with this reality”, said Ademi.
Migrant workers face bureaucratic procedures
“The third thing has to do with our cultural heritage. Albanians have always regarded investments in real estate as the most reliable while performing economic activity in the countries where they worked”, adds Ademi.
But the fact is that a lot of money from migrant workers is spent on megalomaniac weddings and other traditions rather than specific plans for economic development, and Beckim Bina says that this phenomenon speaks a lot about the mentality of migrant workers from these parts.
“Such phenomena are made only for values of our population. Simply, it is their money and they spend it according to their priorities. Migrant workers are the ones that need to explain why they do not invest in Macedonia, because we can only express a variety of assumptions”, Bina points out.
A migrant worker from Struga (Z.M.), who lives in the United States, says that money is mostly spent for family celebrations such as weddings, circumcision etc.
“Hotels profit from this most, then photographic studios, singers and so on. You already know, a wedding celebration costs at least $15,000 with 300-400 guests invited”, he says.
He explained that one cannot invest in long-term projects because it is difficult to move from a place where they have already built a life and have got used to the local system.
Bekim Bina says that moving home is not so easy when they are used to a different system and that returning would be easier if our system here functioned properly.
“Our immigrants will return to their homeland if they assess that there is business environment and see good prospects”.
*Author is journalist in inbox7 online magazine and co-director, Liberal Alternative Institute in Skopje)
**The opinion of the author doesn’t necessarily represent IBNA’s editorial line