APART from attracting foreign investment through the newly created Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC), a grand initiative taken by the COAS, General Syed Asim Munir, to pull the country out of the currently prevailing economic difficulties by quickly attracting the foreign investment, Pakistan can also boost the inflow of the US dollars by taking special measures to systematically increasing the Pakistani professionals/workers’ remittances from abroad. This can be done by facilitating the training and export of additional manpower abroad, almost doubling the number, than the present number of expatriates, who are already sending about 2.2 billion US dollars (USD) to Pakistan every month. By doing this in the next few years, Pakistan can expect to get about four billion USD foreign remittances per month. Hence, this article focuses on the ways/means, which will help Pakistan in doubling the number of its professionals/workers abroad to double the foreign remittances within next 4 to 5 years’ time.
Referring to the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development, Wikipedia states that approximately 8.8 million Pakistanis live abroad according to December 2017 estimates. According to the Pakistan’s Ministry of Emigration and Overseas Employment data released in 2023, more than 10.80 million people moved abroad in the last three decades since 1990. The vast majority, over 4.7 million, reside in the Middle East/Gulf countries. The second-largest community, about 1.2 million live in the United Kingdom; followed in third place by the United States (especially New York City, Chicago, and New Jersey). According to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Pakistan has the 6th largest diaspora in the world.
According to the Migrant Resource Centre, foreign remittances play a crucial role in Pakistan’s economy, providing a much-needed inflow of dollars to boost foreign exchange reserves. Pakistan receives most of its remittances from the Gulf countries, but within the region, Saudi Arabia and the UAE stand out. According to the Pew Research Centre, Saudi Arabia was the leading source of remittance for Pakistan with $5.8 billion remitted in 2016. Other leading countries were the UAE ($5.7 billion), the UK ($1.7 billion), the US ($1.33 billion), Kuwait ($1 billion), Canada ($565 million), Singapore ($531 million) Qatar ($483 million), Oman ($403 million), Bahrain ($305 million), Spain ($251 million), Italy ($248 million), Germany ($193 million), and Australia ($122 million).
Remittances play a major role in boosting Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves and in stabilizing its external sector, as they make up almost half the import bill and cover the deficit in the trade of goods account. Experiencing this major contribution towards strengthening the Pakistan’s economy, the State Bank of Pakistan has been trying to devise ways to increase home remittances. In this context, following suggestions are offered.
For doubling the foreign remittances, Pakistan needs to double the number of expatriates to work in foreign countries, for which it requires to facilitate the search the jobs for Pakistani professionals and workers abroad by getting vacancies for different jobs from various countries, by tasking the Pakistani embassies abroad. For this purpose, a task force should also be organized in the country to facilitate the selection of individuals on the vacancies, which are provided by our embassies/high commissions abroad as well as those vacancies advertised by the foreign countries embassies/high commissions in Pakistan.
Whereas the private sector might continue to help the aspiring candidates ready to proceed abroad, but their procedures should be under the government scrutiny to minimize corruption/fraud of sending the individuals abroad through illegal means such as through boats/illegal border crossings. The government’s task force should also help the people as earlier proposed, in the selection as well as visa processing of the selected individuals. Whereas the assistance of the government’s task force will create a goodwill in the hearts of the Pakistani people, it will also help in minimizing the corruption/fraud by the private agents.
In view of the intense competition in the international labour market for selection for various jobs abroad, it is also necessary that a large number of technical people and labour are trained properly to enable them to compete well in the selection process. Currently, Pakistan has very limited number of such training institutes, with a limited capacity which are very old with old machines/techniques being used. Therefore, there is a need that the caretaker government also takes the initiative of refurbishing the available technical training institutes and expanding them further to increase their capacity. For example, according to the Think Global Health, by organizing specialized training for its nursing staff, more than 193,000 Filipino-trained nurses work in the US/Western countries and others, thus capturing the world market with 85 percent of all Filipino nurses working worldwide.
In the above context, it is very encouraging that the caretaker IT Minister/his ministry has planned to train about two lakh personnel in the IT skills in the next two years. According to him, presently, Pakistan’s annual IT exports are only 1.2 billion, which are expected to touch 5 billion USD in Year 2023/24. Look at India, whereas as per the CNN news, in 2000/01, its IT sector exports were 6 billion USD, according to Statista report, in 2022, India’s IT Sector exports (software and services exports) have swelled to 178 billion USD.
For sending our professionals, doctors, engineers and others abroad, at the moment, Pakistan should not worry about the brain drain, because there are many qualified professionals who do not have jobs in Pakistan and it is better if they are sent there to help themselves/their families as well as contribute towards Pakistan’s economy. In the above context, it is also necessary that special measures are taken through Pakistan’s embassies abroad to further facilitate the expatriates for sending their remittances to Pakistan. Moreover, to further encourage them to save more and send more remittances to Pakistan, our embassies abroad should also help resolve their welfare, passport, visa and other legal issues/cases with passion and expeditiously.
—The writer is also a former Research Fellow of IPRI and Senior Research Fellow of SVI Islamabad.
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