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This year marks a major milestone in terms of the cash flowing to low- and middle-income countries: Remittances are now significantly larger than any other source of funds.

Expand chart
Adapted from KNOMAD's "Migration and Remittances Recent Development and Outlook," April 2019; Chart: Axios Visuals

The big picture: Remittances generally arrive in small chunks, maybe a couple of hundred dollars at a time, but there are a lot of them, and they add up. Today, they're bigger than foreign direct investment, they're much bigger than flows from bond and stock markets, and they're about three times bigger than flows from official sources like the World Bank.

  • The development impact of remittances is enormous, for two main reasons. First, remittances disintermediate most government bureaucracy and go straight to poor individuals. Second, and more importantly, they are the only major foreign-currency flows that do not need to be repaid.
  • In Venezuela, remittances are a literal lifeline — many Venezuelans would die without them, according to World Bank remittances expert Dilip Ratha. And those flows aren't even measured in the chart above, since they take place in the grey market, out of sight of the authorities.

Why it matters: Remittances are a form of decentralized, distributed power — and they amount to more than $700 billion per year, most of which goes to poor people in poor countries. By comparison, total World Bank disbursements in 2018 were $46 billion.

Go deeper

Updated 19 mins ago - Sports

The Olympic events to watch today

Stefanie Dolson of the U.S. celebrates victory in the 3x3 Basketball competition on July 28, 2021 in Tokyo. Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

5 events to watch today...
  • 🤸‍♀️ Men’s gymnastics: Team USA’s Sam Mikulak and Brody Malone compete in the individual all-around final. Coverage starts at 6:15 a.m. on Peacock (watch the replay at 8 p.m. ET on NBC)
  • 🏀 3x3 Basketball: The women’s gold medal game between the U.S. and Russia starts at 8:55 a.m. ET on USA Network. Russia and Latvia will play in the men’s final at 9:25 a.m. ET.
  • 🏌️ Men’s golf: Round one tees off at 6:30 p.m. ET on the Golf Channel or stream on nbcolympics.com.
  • 🏊 Swimming: Men’s 800m freestyle, 200m breaststroke and 100m freestyle finals and women’s 200m butterfly final. Coverage starts at 9:30 p.m. on NBC.

National parks "drowning in tourists"

Expand chart
Data: National Park Service; note: Gateway National Recreation Area is excluded due to missing data in 2021. Chart: Connor Rothschild/Axios

National Parks across the U.S. are overflowing with a post-pandemic crush of tourists, leading to increased issues with congestion, traffic jams, user experience, strain on staff and increased damage to the parks.

Why it matters: Some are seeing such a record number they're being forced to limit, and even close, access to certain areas to avoid the danger of eroding the land. The result, ultimately, could change the way Americans interact with the parks going forward.

Why Mark Zuckerberg is going meta

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Michaela Handrek-Rehle/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Facebook's "next chapter," Mark Zuckerberg says, is to be prime builder of "the metaverse" — an open, broadly distributed, 3D dimension online where, he says, we will all conduct much of our work and personal lives.

The big picture: Zuckerberg admits Facebook will only be one of many companies building this next-generation model of today's internet — but he also intends Facebook to lead the pack.