By William Casis
Chair for Senate committee on Economic Affairs Sen. Imee Marcos said OFWs falling victim to bogus investment schemes could result not only in the loss of their hard-earned savings but also billions in government loans to them going to waste.
“To save our OFWs from investment scams, the government needs to diversify livelihood opportunities for them. They have returned to remote rural areas which they left in the first place because of so few employment opportunities,” Marcos said.
Marcos urged the creation of a data base from which OFWs can choose possible business partners or co-investors among local micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) that have good track records and ready to expand.
“The lack of financial literacy among OFWs has made them vulnerable to scammers. The sad truth is that often their most trusted relatives, friends, father confessors and mayors scam their hard-earned savings,” said Marcos.
She pointed out that not all OFWs are ready to start their own business and become instant entrepreneurs.
“Partnering OFWs with accredited MSMEs will make the government’s loan programs truly viable. In tandem, both parties also have a greater chance of surviving and recovering financially amid the Covid-19 pandemic,” Marcos added.
Amid the concerns for food security during the pandemic, Marcos cited the “tremendous opportunities in agriculture,” noting that many OFWs who come from remote areas are at least familiar with farming.
“We need to make the transition and repatriation phase gentler, steadier and better regulated. We have seen too many tragic stories of hardworking OFWs squirreling away funds for years upon years and suddenly just blowing it all on a bad investment decision,” Marcos said.
Marcos also proposed to double the credit assistance extended to OFWs even before they leave for their jobs abroad, from Php50,000 to Php100,000.
The “pre-departure loan” will help OFW families with their daily expenses and unforeseen emergencies, while waiting for the breadwinner’s salary remittance, Marcos said.