In yesterday's post about migration statistics, I mentioned El Salvador's dependence on remittances from Salvadorans abroad. El Salvador's Central Reserve Bank keeps track of the that money flow. Its latest statistics on remittance flows show that remittances are up slightly (2.1%) from the same time period last year. Through October of this year, Salvadorans living abroad have sent in $2.926 billion, while in 2009 they had transmitted $2.865 billion. That's an average of almost $300 million per month -- or $50 per month for every man, woman and child in El Salvador.
And El Salvador's commercial interests are structured to capture that remittance flow as much as they can. I learned about one example of this last week when I was in San Salvador. A friend pointed out the very large indoor playgrounds which accompany every fast food franchise in the city. Pizza Huts, Burger Kings, KFCs, Pollo Campero and more all have these big play areas, much larger than any you see in the US. My friend made the point that these fast food restaurants were always completely filled each weekend with birthday parties, and the birthday parties are all paid for directly by family members living abroad.
The fast food operators make it easy for the families living abroad to order their birthday parties with online sites. Consider the Burger King El Salvador site, where you get the complete birthday party package description and you can even track all your parties with an online calendar. Pizza Hut makes it easy to pick the ingredients on your family's pizza online, and so on.
This is just one example of ways that businesses operating in El Salvador act to capture the remittance dollar. Another example are the cell phone companies -- the companies remind you that your family members living abroad can now recharge your cell phone minutes simply by going online to the cell phone website.
So charge up your phone and call all the family -- our uncle in the US is buying a birthday party at Pizza Hut for your cousin.