Sunday April 21, 2024

‘Annual remittances likely to shrink by over $1bn’

By Jamila Achakzai
April 02, 2020

Islamabad : Pakistani economy, which relies heavily on remittances, is in for trouble due to the coronavirus pandemic as a senior government official warns that if the virus continues to spread and impact the global economy, these inflows in the country is likely to drop by over $1-1.5 billion annually.

"Our foreign remittances have halved in the last two months and if the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis persists any longer, they're expected to decrease by from $1billion to $1.5 billion per year. Currently, our 10,000-11,000 households are estimated to be directly impacted by the situation," Director General of the Bureau of Emigration and Overseas Employment Kashif Ahmed Noor told an 'online consultation on migration and border management during COVID-19' organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute here.

The DG said around 60,000 Pakistanis were in the process of going abroad for employment and the bureau was in contact with authorities in the UAE and other relevant countries about them.

He also said his organisation would share its three-month database with the Overseas Pakistani Foundation and Benazir Income Support Programme to facilitate blue colour workers and their families.

“We cannot leave them (workers) in the lurch,” he said.

All panelists pushed the government for facilitating thousands of overseas workers stranded in Pakistan due to COVID-19 pandemic across the world.

SDPI executive director Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri said it’s time to pay back to the migrant workers, who would send millions of dollar remittances to Pakistan.

Stressing the need for the formulation of a migrant protection policy, he said comprehensive measures should be taken for overseas workers in terms of their overall health on their homecoming after the expiry of employment contracts in the post-COVID-19 era.

Dr Abid also said insurance policies should be strengthened, while the current policies, especially those on overseas Pakistanis, should be broadened.

Country director of the International Centre on Migration Policy Development Raana Rahim offered her organisation's support to the labour market research cell for 'institutionalisation' and being an integral part of the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis.

She said the ICMPD was trying to train officials along the lines of e-learning, health migration and border management.

“We realise that these measures entail providing equipment as Federal Investigation Agency does not have the resources to benefit, so we’re trying to find a less costly solution.

"We need to provide personal protective equipment to those, who are at the front-line of the border,” she said.

Social protection specialist Waqar Sherazi said the socioeconomic registries in Pakistan had the database, where the data could be filtered for overseas Pakistani labourers.

“These simulations can be run and a valuable dataset or information may be provided to the ministries concerned for their consumption and consequent support to blue-collared overseas who lost their jobs due to the pandemic. The relief provided in this regard (to their families back at home) may help them survive the economic shock due to their job losses," he said.

The expert said the upcoming global recession due to coronavirus pandemic would ultimately lead to the layoff of Pakistanis working overseas and thus, causing drastic reduction in remittance inflows.

"All that will affect the induction of cash to the local economy with the local job market also bearing the brunt. To avoid this situation, the ministries concerned need to ensure the minimum job loss to overseas Pakistanis by engaging the respective foreign governments," he said.

SDPI joint executive director Dr Vaqar Ahmed said Pakistani workers might have to return soon as global economies slowed down and Gulf countries continued to suffer from abnormally low oil prices.

“The Prime Minister's Economic Package needs to expand its scope and include assistance for the returning workers,” he said.

Dr Vaqar suggested that both the finance and overseas Pakistanis ministries coordinate for the welfare of Pakistanis working abroad from the funds to be made available by the IMF's Rapid Finance Instrument.