MANILA,  January 16, 2004 (STAR) By Des Ferriols - Dollar remittances from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) went up by 4.8 percent to $6.9 billion in 2003 from $6.6 billion in 2002, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) reported yesterday.

While last year’s figure was slightly higher than the 2002 remittances, it was lower than the expected inflows of $7.6 billion.

The BSP said the latest weakening of the peso against the dollar encouraged higher remittances from OFWs but this was offset by the decline in the number of deployed workers abroad which had raised alarm among labor and finance officials since the country depends heavily on OFW remittances.

According to the BSP, the number of deployed land-based workers declined by 6.7 percent to 600,620 workers in 2003.

The number of sea-based workers, on the other hand, went up 2.6 percent to nearly 210,000 in 2003.

The BSP said foreign portfolio investments were also up in 2003, rising by 29 percent to $1.644 billion from $1.227 billion in 2002.

BSP data showed that one transaction propelled the country’s net foreign portfolio investment inflow in 2003 to a three-fold increase over the previous year, reaching $675.8 million.

According to the BSP, the Globe-Deutsche Telekom transaction booked sometime in November 2003 was the main reason for the remarkable performance of net portfolio investments which translated to a significant increase over the $211.7 million recorded in 2002.

Outflows, however, amounted to $968.4 million, nearly wiping out the inflows for the whole year. This, however, was already an improvement compared to outflows in 2002 which amounted to $1.065 billion.

The foreign portfolio inflows was propped up mainly by the net inflow in November which reached $147.7 million, the highest monthly total for the year, due primarily to sizable inflows for settlement of block purchases of Globe Telecom shares.

Positive factors during the month included expectations of higher third quarter corporate earnings, the acceleration in export growth in September, the lower than-programmed budget deficit in October, and the higher-than-expected GDP growth.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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