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Separación familiar en nombre de las remesas ¿Vale la pena?

Dentro de la iniciativa de presupuesto al Congreso para el ejercicio fiscal 2016, el presidente de los Estados Unidos, Barack Obama, incluye por un lado, una petición de $15,297 millones para reforzar la seguridad fronteriza y la política migratoria y por el otro, una partida de $1,000 millones para apoyo en programas de seguridad, gobernabilidad y desarrollo económico a El Salvador, Guatemala y Honduras.

Lo anterior es una clara respuesta —preventiva y reactiva— a la crisis humanitaria del 2014 en la frontera sur de los Estados Unidos,  donde cerca de 51,000 niños migrantes que viajaban solos desde El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras y México fueron retenidos.

Existen múltiples factores que convergen al presentarse una crisis de tal magnitud, y es que hacer las maletas y marcharse del terruño no es nada fácil, ni para los que emigran ni para los que se quedan atrás. ¿Vale la pena? ¿Son más los beneficios que los costos? Se trata de preguntas difíciles de responder, pero son precisamente el objeto de análisis del estudio: Financiamiento de la Familia: Remesas a Centro América en Tiempos de Crisis en el que los investigadores Gabriela Inchauste y Ernesto Stein sugieren que las remesas de los emigrantes a los países en Centro América son salvavidas para muchas familias y han servido para justificar la separación de las mismas, a veces de manera permanente.

Entre 2005 y 2009, las remesas cubrieron entre 80% y 100% de las importaciones de El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras y República Dominicana, y 40% de las de Nicaragua aun así, estos países registraron déficits de su cuenta corriente en dicho período. Estas esas cifras demuestran la relevancia macroeconómica de las remesas, las cuales, terminan siendo el apoyo principal  de  muchas familias centroamericanas que dependen de éstas para evitar la pobreza extrema.

En El Salvador, por ejemplo, casi 40% de las familias del quintil de más bajos ingresos de la población y 20% del siguiente quintil en la escala de ingresos reciben remesas, y los fondos recibidos representan, en promedio, 37% y 14% del gasto de esas familias, respectivamente.

Grafica-2

Ahora bien, analizar los efectos de las remesas sobre las familias destinatarias resulta un poco más complicado de medir por varias razones, una de ellas tiene que ver con las diferencias en cuanto a la formación, el nivel de destreza y las aspiraciones; los emigrantes más capaces y aplicados tienden a provenir de familias con esas mismas características, las cuales tienen mejores perspectivas económicas, incluso si no reciben las remesas que reciben otras familias.

No obstante, sí es posible hacer una interpretación con respecto a las remesas como factor de aumento en el consumo familiar o en las inversiones de la familia. En un estudio realizado en el 2007 se encontró que las familias con menores ingresos tienden, naturalmente, a destinar una mayor parte de sus ingresos por concepto de remesas a sus necesidades básicas, mientras que es más probable que los destinatarios de mayores ingresos usen sus remesas para mantener a los niños en la escuela o para otras inversiones en capital humano. Los destinatarios de remesas también tienden a gozar de mejor salud que los no destinatarios, tanto porque pueden costear más atención médica, como debido a que sus parientes en el exterior les transmiten conocimientos aprendidos sobre hábitos más saludables, incluida la atención médica preventiva.

Sin embargo, no todo es miel sobre hojuelas. Inchauste y Stein también mencionan los posibles efectos negativos en los niños cuando sus padres se ausentan por prolongados períodos. Crecer sin padres puede aumentar la posibilidad de que los niños se vean expuestos a comportamientos riesgosos o a problemas para su seguridad. Si bien es cierto que estos efectos son difíciles de evaluar por la compensación económica que reciben las familias, merece la pena tomarlos en cuenta.

En este contexto, Financiamiento de la Familia: Remesas a Centro América en Tiempos de Crisis resulta sumamente relevante. El presidente Barack Obama intentará frenar el flujo migratorio con una visión dual;  por un lado reforzando la seguridad en la frontera  y por el otro, fomentar el crecimiento en El Salvador, Guatemala y Honduras. Al final, la decisión de dejar el país, recae directamente en cada posible futuro migrante. El objetivo para Centro América debe ser alcanzar un desarrollo sostenido que impacte a sus ciudadanos, de tal manera que, resulte sencillo decidir que abandonar el terruño no vale la pena.

 

Esta columna fue originalmente publicada en el Blog Ideas que Cuentan del Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo BID.

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