Overseas Vietnamese have sent home remittances of 1.4 billion USD through HCM City-based banks in the first four months of this year, a year-on-year increase of 19.6 percent.

Remittances by overseas Vietnamese during Tet (Lunar new Year festival), which falls between mid-January and mid-February every year, is one of the reasons for the huge remittances in the first quarter, according to Nguyen Hoang Minh, Deputy Director of the State Bank of Vietnam's HCM City branch.

Remittances sent through banks in the city were growing by 8-10 percent annually and were expected to reach 5.3-5.5 billion USD this year, he said.

According to the Central Institute for Economic Management (CIEM), in 2014 remittances to Vietnam topped 11 billion USD.

In a report it released last December, CIEM said with about four million Vietnamese living and working in 187 countries and territories, Vietnam is now among the top 10 remittance recipients in the world.

Remittances have played an important role in the country's socio-economic development.

In 2004-06 remittances were the biggest source of foreign funds for the country. Since 2007 they have been the second biggest sources behind foreign direct investment.

The remittances bolster the country's foreign currency reserves and help keep the dong stable.

Most of the remittances are spent on daily expenses and business activities or saved, but the usage has been changing.

According to a CIEM study, 48 percent of the families getting the money are among the top 20 percent in the country in terms of income. And the high incomes are affecting the spending patterns.

Among those with comparable incomes, families receiving remittances give priority to spending on accommodation and investment in business activities while spending less on food, consumer goods, education, and healthcare.

The group of 20 percent of the poorest families (receiving remittances) has used these funds for their accommodations while the group of the 20 percent of the richest has spent remittances as investments into the real estate sector for profits.

The CIEM's study reveals that in 2014 remittances used as investments for business activities slumped to 15.9 percent (of their remittances) from the 16.2 percent of the previous five years.

Up to 30 percent of the remittance receivers deposited their remittances as savings in banks; 27 percent to 30 percent for business and service sectors; 20 percent used remittances on gold trading; and 16 percent – 17 percent as investments in the real estate sector.

A CIEM representative said remittances into Vietnam in 2015 and 2016 are expected to increase slightly from the last year's 11 billion USD. However, these funds would begin to slightly decrease since 2017.-VNA