Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis & Human Resource Development A Year in Review
The Ministry has taken major and effective steps to beat the repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic with huge success
The portfolio of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development in Government of Pakistan is headed by Special Assistant to Prime Minister Sayed Zulfikar Abbas Bukhari who is also currently the Chairman of Pakistan's National Tourism Coordination Board and Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation.
These portfolios are among the key focus areas for the Government of Pakistan as Pakistan's economy largely relies on worker remittances from Pakistani workforce abroad. A large chunk of this in inflow from Pakistanis in the GCC region. In the past one year, this Ministry has seen exceptional circumstances specially due to the breakout of Covid-19 across the world. Working at a humanitarian front, the Ministry was constantly working to provide relief to Pakistani diaspora across the world in di?erent ways. Here are top major achievements of the Ministry and its departments in the past one year:
The Largest Repatriation Operation
Year 2020 saw massive disruptions in global air travel, and job losses to the labour in many countries. Pakistan's air space was closed in April soon after the initial cases were traced in the country, and due to other countries restrictions, many Pakistanis got stranded abroad.
Government of Pakistan decided to document those Overseas Pakistanis and run one of the largest repatriation operations in the world.
As many as 250,000 stranded Pakistanis were flown back home, over 30 special flights were arranged to repatriate citizens from over 70 countries. One-fourth of the overall pre-Covid-19 flights were allowed to repatriate Pakistani nationals stranded abroad, most from Gulf states. The priority was given to the laid-o? workers, students and people with expired visas during the repatriation process.
A massive Covid-19 relief operation was also started in which Pakistani diaspora abroad played a key role. The ministry appointed 28 Focal Persons in di?erent countries from among diaspora across five countries. Financial assistance for welfare of Overseas Pakistanis amounting to Rs246 million was disbursed amongst 626-plus destitute families. With 100s of volunteers, 5,000-plus families were given rations at their doorsteps, along with medicines and other essential commodities and free air tickets to the most deserving.
Active communication strategies were adopted making use of electronic and digital mediums to provide support to Pakistanis in distress during di?cult times.
Corona Relief Fund
Pakistani community abroad has always been a source of financial support for the country during di?cult times. In the past, Prime Minister Imran Khan has raised huge sums of money for his philanthropy projects from Pakistanis abroad. During Covid-19, PM Imran Khan announced the biggest relief package in country's history for immediate case disbursements to the most needy and those rendered jobless during Covid-19. PM Imran Khan also launched PM's Covid Relief Fund in which Overseas Pakistanis contributed generously with active e?orts of the Ministry. The fund had received Rs4.84 billion by October 2020 from Pakistanis both in Pakistan and overseas. The fund was used to hand out transparent financial to the most deserving.
Remittances Boom and Financial Incentives
Unlike the global trend of economic slowdown Pakistan saw a boom in remittances. The country received workers' remittances worth $2.27 billion in January 2021- a number that was 19 per cent higher compared to $1.9 billion in the same period of last year. This was also significant because the remittances remained consecutively over 2 billion for the 8th consecutive month.
The Ministry, in collaboration with the State Bank of Pakistan, launched Roshan Digital Accounts for Overseas Pakistanis as well as the Naya Pakistan certificates and introduced other saving and investment opportunities for them in property and stock market. As many as 100,000 Roshan Digital Accounts have been opened so far from over 100 countries with a deposit of $671 million.
Saving and Securing More Jobs
During the current regime one million new jobs were created for Pakistanis in foreign lands - this is a 11.5 per cent increase in trend of job creation as compared to previous regime.
Newer job opportunities for Pakistanis in countries like Romania, Japan and Kuwait were also created. For the Pakistani workers who lost their jobs overseas, the government is working alongside other governments for active data sharing, up-skilling, re-skilling and reemployment of this workforce. The Ministry has signed MoUs worth 3.13 million Euros for skills training of returning immigrants. Apart from this, in collaboration with the PM's initiatives for youth the returning immigrants are eligible for loan schemes to start small/medium businesses.
Pakistani Students in Wuhan
A large number of Pakistani students were stranded in Wuhan after Covid-19 restrictions were imposed. The government actively worked to facilitate them, stipends were provided to them during this period as well as food and rations dispatched to them. Moreover, the government also arranged special flights for them with subsidised air fare.
Ehsaas for the Labour
Under the PM's poverty alleviation programme, the labour who were rendered jobless were give financial assistance. A special priority was given to the daily wagers in this, whereby they were given cash stipends to survive the pandemic.
In line with PM Imran Khan's vision for houses for the most vulnerable communities, a Labour Colony for industrial labourers was recently inaugurated. An initiative by the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development, phase 1 of the project includes 1008 apartments, 500 houses, mosque, utility store, primary school, community centre, Model school, and institute and a dispensary. Phase 2 of the project will include 1504 apartments with amenities such as a mosque, primary school, community centre, model school and a Polytechnic institute.
According to the PM's Naya Pakistan Housing Programme, labourers will be provided houses on mortgage and not on rent. With easy loans from the banks and mortgages of up to 20 years, they can get loans of unto 90 per cent and take the possession of the house by paying only 10 per cent down payment.
A Rs3 lakh subsidy for the labourers has also been announced under new policy.
To improve the pensions structure for old-age pensioners and bring it par with the national basic income, the government has been working aggressively to reinstate the dead financial projects. Revival of billions worth of stalled projects was done that have now already started contributing rental income of four billion-plus annually. The other projects in the pipeline will improve the financial flows even further taking away the dependence for worker's pensions and benefits on national exchequer. Even during Covid the Ministry successfully achieved 100 per cent collection target from the corporate sector, hence ensuring smooth running pensions payments to old age beneficiaries.
Increase in Worker Pensions
As was promised during the elections, workers' pensions were increased by 62 per cent. Special Assistant to Prime Minister Sayed Zulfikar Abbas Bukhari is aiming for further increase during the current government's term. Moreover, the Ministry achieved transparency and e?ciency through linking pensions with digital payments.
Now pensions are delivered at people's doorsteps, especially to the elderly and the sick.
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