Facilitate overseas Pakistanis, PM tells economic team

Premier launches Sohni Dharti Remittance Programme


Our Correspondent November 25, 2021
Prime Minister Imran Khan during the virtual address to World Leaders Summit Dialogue. SCREENGRAB

ISLAMABAD:

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday asked his economic team to focus on facilitating the Pakistanis living abroad in sending remittances to the country through banking channels and incentivising them.

“Around nine million overseas Pakistanis are the country’s asset,” the premier said at a ceremony held to launch the ‘Sohni Dharti Remittance Programme (SDRP)’ – a move aimed at encouraging the use of formal channels.

He said the overseas Pakistanis should be treated as VIPs as the country and they had a mutually beneficial relationship.

The premier claimed that the overseas Pakistanis were immensely contributing to the country's economy.

“The government appreciates their role in bridging the gap between exports and imports of the country.”

PM Imran added that the government was working on a plan to give overseas Pakistanis concession in taxes as well.

The SDRP is a point-based loyalty programme in which remitters and their beneficiaries will accumulate reward points by sending remittances through formal channels (SBP-regulated entities) and redeem those points at participating in public sector entities (PSEs) by availing their services free of charge.

A mobile App, in English and Urdu, for iOS (Apple) and Android (Google) is available for remitters to download for the purpose of registration and later on for point redemption at PSEs.

A remitter can also add one beneficiary relationship and can transfer reward points to them.

A centralised back-end system is developed and run by 1-LINK.

The prime minister said the government had introduced another programme -- Roshan Digital Accounts (RDAs) -- under which overseas Pakistanis would be able to purchase houses and invest in real estate in their homeland in a safe and transparent manner.

“Investment in real estate through the RDAs will be safe as the banks concerned will check and verify the legal details of the housing society so that the overseas Pakistanis could be protected from any fraud.”

PM Imran noted that Pakistan, which was ahead of countries like Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia in exports in the 1960s, was now lagging behind because of neglect in the past and facing the issues of trade and current account deficits.

“Though the country will be achieving the highest exports this year, but other matching economies [until the 1960s] like Singapore now [with around $200 billion) and Malaysia [with around $300 billion] are far ahead of us in terms of annual exports.”

The premier noted that with Pakistan’s economy growing and imports increasing, there was pressure on the current account.

“When pressure comes on current account, it also puts pressure on the rupee and we have to approach the IMF [International Monitory Fund],” he added.

He claimed that the only way out of this “vicious cycle” was to enhance exports and boost the industry, which had been “stagnant for the last many years”.

Speaking on the occasion, Finance Adviser Shaukat Tarin said earlier banks were being rewarded for bringing remittances to the country but for the first time overseas Pakistanis would receive benefits by scoring points in the application.

State Bank Governor Reza Baqir said after the success of the RDAs, the launching of the SDRP by the central bank would help the common or less educated overseas Pakistanis to send their remittances by registering on the application, which required minimum information including details of their identity cards and passports.

Separately, the premier, while chairing a meeting of the National Coordinating Committee on Housing, Construction and Development, directed the authorities concerned to take urgent steps to multiply country’s green cover through forestation on encroached land.

He described the retrieval of forest land from land grabbers and encroachers as the government’s priority.

PM Imran observed that it was essential to curb the unauthorised use of land and restrict the horizontal sprawl of housing societies.

“Such measures will ensure food security and ease the provision of better civic amenities like water and sewerage,” he added.

The premier directed the authorities concerned to share the findings of the cadastral survey with the provinces and that should be followed by swift action to retrieve public property.

The prime minister also met with Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Minister Khalid Khurshid and discussed matters relating to the ongoing development projects in the area.

PM Imran was informed that work was at full pace to provide facilities of international standards at the tourist points in G-B.

The two leaders also discussed the issues pertaining to the displacement of the population due to the construction of Diamer-Bhasha dam and the power policy.

(With input from APP)

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