Global remittances are the oil that keep globalisation going

Money sent home by migrants provides a lifeline to some states and props up poor communities in many others

‘In a world of mobile cash transfers and blockchain, the remittance business surely cannot live in a time warp for much longer.’ File photograph: Alan Betson

‘In a world of mobile cash transfers and blockchain, the remittance business surely cannot live in a time warp for much longer.’ File photograph: Alan Betson

To see how remittances are changing the world, visit Vila Fabril, a suburb of Anápolis, a Cork-sized city a few hours south of Brasilia. Surrounded by coffee plantations and fields of soy and bananas, this small town, built in the 1950s to house workers from a huge meat factory that long dominated the local economy, stands out for its striking juxtapositions.

When I visited a few years ago, most of the houses were still old, mostly two-room shacks made out of exposed brick with corrugated iron roofs held down by concrete slabs. But every fourth or fifth house looked as if it had been transplanted from somewhere else: they were brand new, freshly painted in bright colours, the more extravagant surrounded by steel gates and with a gleaming new car in the garage.

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