Shifting focus

Pakistan must explore the closest opportunities to support economic growth

Shifting focus

The Tehreek-i-Insaf government is focused on remittances and overseas Pakistanis as a means for economic growth. However, the data indicate that a long-standing partner – the United Arab Emirates, has not been on the government’s radar.

Remittances by overseas Pakistanis have become a cornerstone of the current government’s economic policies. A cursory look at two of the most important government documents, the Economic Survey and the recently unveiled federal budget, confirm this.

Pakistan Remittances Initiatives, facilitating expatriates remittances and savings through Roshan Digital Account and National Remittance Loyalty Programme (NRLP), were either enhanced or introduced in the federal budget unveiled earlier this month. The budget document claims that remittances grew by 29 per cent to the $24.2 billion and surpassed the $21.5 billion target.

The government has increased the budgetary allocation for Pakistan Remittance Initiative from Rs 23 million in the previous year to Rs 25 million in the budget for the next year. The Scheme For Marketing Home Remittance allocation has been raised from Rs 2 billion in 2020-21 to Rs 3 billion in 2021-22. The National Remittance Loyalty Programme has been introduced, and Rs 1.768 billion allocated for it this fiscal year.

All this speaks of a commitment to further enhancing remittances and providing a streamlined financial system for overseas Pakistanis.

Pakistan is one of the largest human resources exporting countries in the region. The UAE is one of the most favoured destinations for Pakistanis looking for work abroad. According to the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2020-21, more than 11.43 million Pakistanis reside abroad for employment in over 50 countries. Out of these, 96 per cent are in the Gulf countries. Among the Gulf destinations for overseas Pakistanis, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are the favourite destinations. One reason for this is the proximity; another is the shared religion and culture; yet another is the opportunities available.

After Saudi Arabia, the UAE is the host to most Pakistani workers globally, with 24 per cent of all workers seeking employment opportunities there. In 2020, a total of 53,676 Pakistani workers registered for overseas employment in the UAE. This number compares poorly with 295,647 in 2016.

The UAE has been the land of opportunities for many Pakistanis looking for a better life. Further, the UAE wants to promote business ties with Pakistan. Earlier this week, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi said that the UAE was ready to extend full assistance to Pakistani businessmen to help them explore the opportunities offered by the Emirati market. The statement is more than a diplomatic pleasantry; it is an invitation for Pakistan to move from being just a labour exporter to a skilled workforce exporter in IT and global finance and for entrepreneurial endeavours.

It is high time Pakistan recognised the employment potential in its neighbourhood. The government of Pakistan must make renewed efforts to bring in line the regulatory requirements with the global standards and provide a way for Pakistani entrepreneurs, businessmen and skilled workforce to seek these opportunities in the UAE.

The writer is a freelance journalist based in Lahore

Shifting focus