Saturday September 18, 2021

Some wrong facts raise questions about Economic Survey

ISLAMABAD: Credibility of the recently launched Economic Survey 2016-17 is in question as certain claims made in the report about manpower export are not factual.

The Economic Survey unambiguously announced that restriction on Pakistani visas has been lifted by the Kuwaiti government. However, the fact is that these restrictions are still there and yet to be lifted by the Kuwaiti government.

Similarly, there is a claim made in the report that Qatari government has announced 100,000 jobs for Pakistani workers but on the ground even this is not final as yet.

On page 206, the Pakistan Economic Survey while referring to the present government’s steps taken to increase the export of Pakistani manpower to other countries, boasted, ”During the recent visit of Prime Minister to Kuwait the restriction on issuing of visas to Pakistani nationals has been lifted by the Kuwaiti Government.”

When contacted, senior spokesman of the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development told The News that the ministry through the Foreign Office has taken up the matter with the Kuwaiti government but so far the ban has not been lifted.

The Kuwaiti government had banned the visas for Pakistani workers after the country had serious complaints about the smuggling of drugs from Pakistan. The ban was imposed almost 17 years back but despite the lapse of such a long period none of the successive governments made any serious effort to revive employment opportunities for Pakistan manpower in Kuwait.

PML-N leader Envor Baig, who has expertise on manpower export, when contacted told The News that during Musharraf’s tenure in 2007, he had the opportunity to take up the issue of visa restrictions for Pakistanis with the ruler of Kuwait. Baig said that the Kuwaiti ruler told him that drug smuggling was the reason for the ban.

He added that the Kuwaiti ruler had offered that his government was willing to get installed all latest gadgets and scanners at the Pakistani airports to check the smuggling of drugs. However, Baig lamented, “our government did not do anything and thus the ban is still continuing the despite the lapse of 17 years.”

Like the wrong statement of lifting of visa ban by Kuwait, the Economic Survey report, again on page 206, stated about Qatar jobs: “The Prime Minister of Pakistan paid follow up visit in February 2016 to Qatar after Emir of Qatar announced 100,000 jobs from Pakistan for its FIFA World Cup 2020 in which 2 million foreign manpower is required. A number of Memorandums of Understandings (MoUs) in the field of Health, Radio & Television, Education & Research and a Long-term Sale/Purchase Agreement of LNG are signed by both the sides. The aforesaid agreements will create employment opportunities for Pakistan in Qatar. The Chief Minister Punjab also visited Qatar to get the maximum benefit from upcoming mega events.”

For these 100,000 jobs in Qatar for Pakistani workers, the Survey report refers to the prime minister’s Feb 2016 visit to Qatar. But the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development told The News here on Saturday that the ministry is still discussing the issue with the Qatari government and so far not even a single worker out of the promised 100,000 has been recruited by Qatar.

Interestingly, in relation to PM’s Feb 2016 visit as well as that of the chief minister Punjab, the Survey expected more jobs in Qatar for Pakistanis. However, the 2016 figures of manpower export from Pakistan to Qatar show over 20% decline as against the year 2015. Pakistan manpower export to Qatar has reduced from 12.741 in 2015 to 9.706 in 2016.

According to Envor Baig, this situation is very upsetting for Pakistan. He lamented that despite the fact that overseas Pakistanis greatly contribute in the shape of huge amount of remittances, no serious effort is being made to improve manpower export to the Arab countries. He said that recently he wrote to the prime minister to focus on this area which has great potential for Pakistan but did not get any response.

Baig believes that Pakistan could double its remittances by increasing its manpower export, which direly requires government’s keenness at the highest level. Otherwise, he warned, Pakistan would continue losing it space for India, Bangladesh and other countries.