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SUVA. Fiji (Fiji Times, Sept. 13) – Fees charged by Australia and New Zealand on remittances to Pacific island states are exorbitantly high compared to international practices, a senior economist at the World Bank said yesterday.

Doctor Manjula Luthria, of the bank's Pacific office, said financial institutions and money transfer operators were charging fees ranging from 15 to 50 per cent when international best practice was in the range of 1 to 5 per cent.

"The cash that immigrants send home is a vital source of income for the daily survival of Pacific island households, she said.

"High transaction fees in the Pacific are eroding this income support and run counter to best practice in other parts of the world. Action is needed now and we are working to resolve this issue."

Last year, Fiji earned in excess of $300million in remittances.

Twelve months ago, the World Bank launched the report "At Home and Away: Expanding Job Opportunities for Pacific Islanders through Labour Mobility".

It drew attention to the importance of migration and remittances for Pacific island countries.

According to the World Bank website the most recent figures showed remittances to the Pacific region tripled over the past decade to reach US$425million

A statement said over the last six months, consultations between the World Bank and Pacific Island communities in Australia and New Zealand have revealed hard-working Pacific Islanders are struggling to meet the high costs involved in sending money home.

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