Here's a New Year's gift for families of overseas Pakistanis

Heres a New Years gift for families of overseas Pakistanis
Pakistanis' annual remittances have grown from $6.5 billion in FY-2008 to close to $19.9 billion in FY-17.

dubai - Your families will no longer to have to rush to banks to get cash for the remittance you send

By M. Aftab

Published: Tue 9 Jan 2018, 3:33 PM

Last updated: Tue 9 Jan 2018, 5:45 PM

There is happy news for overseas Pakistani workers: your families will no longer to have to rush to banks to get cash for the remittance you send. This will be the New Year's gift from the State Bank of Pakistan - you will get cash at your own home.

Another good news: President Mamoon Hussain  has directed the government and all its affiliate departments to help "millions of overseas Pakistanis". "All their issues and problems  should be resolved because this is the major, major responsibility of the government."

The SBP, the central bank, and the financial sector are going to launch the plan to deliver your remitted cash right at your doorstep via your mobile phone. A  spokesman of the SBP told Khaleej Times "the plan will be launched within days, or right at the start of the new year - January 1, 2018."

As of now, "46 million Pakistanis have bank accounts, but more than 140 million use mobile phones and their number is rapidly growing. The demand for mobile phone-based money transfer is growing. This is the key to channelling home remittances sent by overseas Pakistanis, legally, to their Pakistan-based families via their mobile phones," he said.

Thousands of Pakistanis are, at present, working in the UAE, besides many more deployed in Saudi Arabia, the Middle East, the EU, the UK and the US. Their annual remittances have grown from $6.5 billion in FY-2008 to close to $19.9 billion in FY-17.

The amount is nearly equal to the entire export earnings of Pakistan. Without this huge, unhindered and growing inflow, Pakistan will face a huge current account deficit. It is already, in the first five months of FY-2018, $8.021 billion, widening by 1.28 per cent, compared to the same period of FY-2017.

With the help of overseas Pakistanis, the country has already achieved the distinction of being one of the top 20 receivers of home remittances, according to the World Bank. This happened as a result of the country attaining the highest yearly compound average rise of 16 per cent in the 2009-16 period.

The Ministry of Finance and the SBP have okayed the plan to go into mobile telephony for home remittances to be delivered via mobile-wallet accounts. This service will be offered by all providers of "licensed branchless banking including banks and telecom companies", an announcement says.

So, the existing arrangement provides that one must have a regular bank account and only then start receiving remittances through a mobile phone. But the planned system now drops the requirement of the bank account. In the future, one can receive remittances without having a bank account. As such, the latest arrangement will bring in more and more persons into the World Bank-funded Pakistan Financial Inclusion Plan, which aims at bringing millions of people into the banking network.

With the number of account holders growing under the plan, commercial banks now hope to raise their income and profits a great deal. Already, the number of branchless banking accounts has grown fast by 17 per cent a year. It was 13.16 million at end-June in FY-2017.

More good news: Mamoon expressed his "concern" over the decline in the number of overseas Pakistanis. He was talking to the chairman of the board of governors of the Overseas Pakistanis Foundation (OPF) Amjad Malik. He said: "The foremost goal of the OPF should be welfare of nearly nine million overseas Pakistanis and their families back home in Pakistan. I hope the OPF will continue to perform this duty befittingly."

Expressing his "concern" over the "unserved" number of overseas Pakistanis, Mamoon stressed the need to "explore new employment opportunities abroad for skilled and non-skilled Pakistani workers". The president asked the OPF to increase contacts with expatriates and urged Pakistani embassies abroad to resolve their problems in an efficient manner. He also called for improving the performance of community welfare attaches. The president asked for the determination of quota for the admission of children of overseas Pakistanis in OPF-run Pakistani educational institutions.

Jamil Afzal Cheema, Pakistan's renowned educationist and director-general for education at the OPF, told Khaleej Times: "The OPF is operating 15 colleges and schools where more than 15,000 students are enrolled."

More than 20 per cent of students are the children of overseas Pakistanis. These students are provided with special concessions in their fees, as financial support to their parents working abroad.

Malik says that the Overseas Pakistanis Commission (OPC) will be established at the provincial level to provide "maximum facilitations to overseas Pakistanis via its helpline number - 111-04040 - which is available to expats. He said the quota for the children of overseas Pakistanis in medical and engineering institutions will be restored, as after the promulgation of the 18th Amendment of the Constitution of Pakistan, it had ended.

Malik said the project for the training of skilled workers in various categories has been launched across the country and soon more training centres will be established to meet the demands of the international labour market. He said in the near future, overseas Pakistanis will get seats in Parliament and overseas banks and will be set up at the embassy level to facilitate overseas Pakistanis. More low-cost housing schemes will be launched for the families of deceased expatriates. Some 300 houses will be handed over in  Zone-V of Islamabad within three months and after another three months, 300 more houses will be handed over to owners.

Yet another good news: the Ambassador of Oman in Islamabad, Al Sheikh Mohammed Omar Ahmed Ali  Marhoon, announced last week that "my country will encourage skilled Pakistani workers in  diverse sectors to come to Oman".

The ambassador, while visiting Ayaz Sadiq, Speaker of the National Assembly, said: "Pakistani expatriates in Oman are playing an important role in economic  activities in Oman." He said in view of this, "Oman will welcome more skilled Pakistani workers."

So there expands one big door for Pakistan and its overseas workers.

The writer is based in Islamabad. Views expressed are his own and do not reflect the newspaper's policy.

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