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March 23, 2023

Where Does the Money Go? Unpacking the Political and Economic Implications of Remittances

Blue and white map of Earth's continents

In this panel, experts from the fields of development, and migration discussed the central role of remittances in facilitating financial inclusion and supporting economic growth in low- and middle-income countries. They explored how cross-border money transfers can provide a lifeline for millions of families, help to reduce poverty, and fuel entrepreneurship and job creation. The panelists also examined the challenges facing remittance flows, including regulatory barriers, high transaction costs, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and discuss potential solutions to ensure that these vital financial flows continue to benefit communities around the world. 

The Migration and Refugee Policy Initiative and the Georgetown Americas Institute welcomed Sonia Plaza, senior economist in the Finance, Competitiveness, and Innovation Global Practice of the World Bank; Manuel Orozco, director of the Migration, Remittances, and Development Program at the Inter-American Dialogue; Nikola Spatafora, senior economist in the IMF Research Department; and Daniel Hernandez, media and engagement lead LATAM for Zepz, to discuss these issues and more. 

This event was organized by the Migration and Refugee Policy Initiative at Georgetown University and co-sponsored by Georgetown Americas Institute.


Daniel Hernandez is the Latin America Lead at Zepz, operating two global payment brands: WorldRemit and Sendwave, making global digital payments fairer, faster, and more flexible. Hernandez has ample volunteering experience working hands on with Nicaraguan, Venezuelan and Cuban refugees in Costa Rica in collaboration with the countries Migration Service and Public Universities. He is also the former two time co-founder of successful fintech and digital transformation start ups in Latin America.

Manuel Orozco directs the Migration, Remittances, and Development Program at the Inter-American Dialogue. He also serves as a senior fellow at Harvard University’s Center for International Development and as a senior adviser with the International Fund for Agricultural Development. Orozco has conducted extensive research, policy analysis and advocacy on issues relating to global flows of remittances as well as migration and development worldwide. He is chair of Central America and the Caribbean at the US Foreign Service Institute and senior researcher at the Institute for the Study of International Migration at Georgetown University. Orozco frequently testifies before Congress and has spoken before the United Nations. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Texas at Austin, a M.A. in public administration and Latin American studies, and a B.A. in international relations from the National University of Costa Rica.

Nikola Spatafora is a senior economist in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Research Department. He previously served in the IMF European Department and Fiscal Affairs Department, as well as in the World Bank's Development Economics Research Group. His research interests and publications focus on: economic growth and gevelopment, international trade, commodity prices, remittances, and foreign direct investment. He holds a Ph.D. in Economics from Yale, and a B.A. (First Class) in Politics, Philosophy, & Economics from Balliol College, Oxford.

Sonia Plaza (moderator) is a senior economist in the Finance, Competitiveness and Innovation Global Practice of the World Bank. She is also the co-chair of the Diaspora Thematic working group of Global Knowledge Partnership on Migration and Development (KNOMAD). She advises many universities on the transfer of skills and tapping into their diasporas. Plaza attended the University of Lima and earned a degree in Economics, after which she joined Chase Manhattan Bank. Later, she was invited to join the Peruvian Ministry of Trade as a manager responsible for counter trade and debt swap agreements. She also has a dual degree from Yale University and the University of Pennsylvania in International Economics and Development. She was Professor of Economics (International Economics) at the Peruvian School of Foreign Service and at the University of Lima in Peru, and was adjunct faculty (Microeconomics and Macroeconomics) at American University in Washington, D.C. Her research interests include international migration, labor mobility, trade, and the future of labor. She joined the Institute for the Study of Labor as a Research Fellow in February 2010.