x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Filipinos taught better financial management

Community leaders are teaching their Filipino compatriots how to manage their money and avoid falling into the debt trap.

ABU DHABI // Filipino migrant leaders are teaching their compatriots how to manage their hard-earned money, invest their savings and prepare them to reintegrate into their communities back home.

The move follows a financial literacy "training of trainers" organised in Dubai by the Ministry of Labour, not only for Filipino migrants but for those from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

"The Philippines is one of the few countries that focuses on migrants' reintegration and we thank the UAE for its role in the successful implementation of this programme," said Grace Princesa, the Philippine ambassador to the UAE, who initiated the programme before passing it to the Government.

"It will answer a need among migrants who want to return home, reintegrate and be with their families for good."

A series of workshops were held in January by representatives from Atikha, a non-governmental organisation that provides economic and social services to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their families in the Philippines. Atikha also developed a training module that was applicable to other migrants.

"One of the barriers to reintegration and savings is the over-dependence on remittances by the migrants' families," said Bal Junio, 42, a finance and administration manager in Abu Dhabi who attended the four-day event.

He said Filipinos in the UAE usually fall into a debt trap because most live a good lifestyle on credit while their families back home tend to overspend and splurge using the monthly remittances.

Atikha's research in 2001 showed that most OFWs have no significant savings, despite years of working abroad, and many of them are caught in a debt trap.

The financial literacy seminars discussed basic concepts of saving, investing and borrowing and the various investment instruments that Filipinos could utilise.

"It is our nature to make sacrifices for the family," Mr Junio said. "We need to know how and when to say 'no' to some of their demands."

Ms Princesa said: "Once we teach them and their families how to manage their finances and invest, the migrants will have a chance to voluntarily reintegrate. We hope migration becomes a choice rather than an economic necessity."

"We plan to conduct more seminars in the other emirates," Mr Junio said. "We want to train more trainers who will, in turn, echo these seminars to different groups."