Are Filipina Nannies Funding Al-Qaeda?


Via the Washington Times comes a bizarre AP analysis of the dramatic increase in global remittances. The World Bank reports that immigrants in 2006 were sending home double what they were in 2000, totaling $276 billion, and more than half of it to developing countries. Disturbing trend?

Counterterrorism officials say al Qaeda and other groups are financed in part through informal money-transfer networks called hawalas. Governments and the International Monetary Fund have been working to regulate those.

There are other downsides: fears of brain drains and a vast permanent army of economic exiles, and the untaxed earnings flowing out of host nations.

Hard to know where to start here. The use of Hawala networks for terrorist funding is not a "downside" of the remittances sent by working immigrants; it is a distinct phenomenon that happens to also involve informal means of money transfer. The actual members of that "vast permanent army of economic exiles" are not necessarily permanent, bear no relation to the military, and are only exiles in the sense of self-imposed absence. Much of the remittance cash is coming from places like Singapore and Saudi Arabia, where the immigrant population is subject to constant, state-controlled, churning. 

The U.S. lost $41.1 billion in 2005, according to the World Bank, while Switzerland watched $13.2 billion trickle out of the country that year.

The U.S. "lost" $41.1 billion? If I buy a toothbrush in China with money I made in D.C., does the treasury lose that money? We'd better stop Americans from investing abroad—think of all the money the U.S. is losing. (It's not completely clear to me whether the AP is referring to foregone tax revenue, or to forgone spending in the domestic economy, or something else. In either case, "loss" is an odd way to put it.)

But Giuseppina Iampietro, a Swiss Economics Ministry spokeswoman, says little can be done: "Immigrants have no obligation to invest their money in Switzerland."

And neither do the Swiss.