PIAF stresses need for solid steps to boost remittances

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PIAF stresses need for solid steps to boost remittances

LAHORE: The Pakistan Industrial and Traders Associations Front (PIAF) on Sunday said that foreign remittances flows are crucial which can support the country’s account balance amidst low volumes of foreign direct investment (FDI) and nominal growth of exports.

The PIAF Chairman Faheemur Rehman Saigol said that overseas Pakistanis living in Gulf should further be motivated to maintain an upward momentum in remittances, as they contributed more than 60 percent of the total inflows during last couple of months.

He said that remittances can help not only in financing the deficit in import payments but also in foreign debt repayments, suggesting the government to focus on structural reforms, which can revive Pakistan’s economic growth with major focus on incentives for overseas Pakistanis workers.

The PIAF Chairman said that Pakistan has been witnessing a significant decline in workers’ remittances on a year-on-year basis, however it surged by 5.34% on a month-on-month basis, reaching a total of $2.21 billion, owing to several positive factors, including improved transparency and the implementation of stringent measures against dollar smuggling. These initiatives have helped create a more secure and regulated environment for remittance transactions.

Faheem Saigol said that remittances for Sept came in at $2.21 billion, according to data shared by the State Bank of Pakistan. This figure, while an improvement from last month’s $2.09 billion, was significantly lower than market expectations of $2.4-2.5 billion. On a month-on-month basis, remittances rose by 5.3%. However, they declined by 11.24% compared to last year, when remittances stood at $2.49 billion.

In a statement issued here, the PIAF Chairman asked the government to announce attractive package for overseas Pakistanis to enhance the volume of foreign inflows because this is the only hope which can support the country’s account balance, as the remittances have started declining, showing a huge fall during last month.

If government supports overseas Pakistanis and provides them incentives, they can play a vital role in boosting Pakistan’s economy through their remittances and investments for high economic growth. If the falling trend persists in the remaining months of this fiscal year, it could pose serious problems for the economic managers as the govt heavily relies on remittances, which are much higher than the country’s total export proceeds.

If government supports overseas Pakistanis and provides them incentives, they can play a vital role in boosting Pakistan’s economy through their remittances and investments for high economic growth. If the falling trend persists in the remaining months of this fiscal year, it could pose serious problems for the economic managers as the government heavily relies on remittances, which are much higher than the country’s total export proceeds.

The BMP chairman observed that the development comes at a crucial time for Pakistan, which has seen its foreign exchange reserves deplete due to external debt servicing and lower inflow of dollars.

Mian Anjum Nisar appreciated the SBP, which under its home remittances promotion measures, allowed exchange companies to maintain separate foreign currency accounts for each money transfer operator.

The State Bank of Pakistan and the Arab Monetary Fund have signed a memorandum of understanding to facilitate remittances from Arab countries with official channels.

The government and the SBP have been trying to stop remittances through illegal channels, which not only destabilises the exchange rate but also reduces inflows. He believes that the MoU with the AMF would help Pakistan bring most of the inflows through the banking channels. Arab countries contribute about 55 percent of the total remittances. In FY23, Pakistan received $27.3 billion in remittances compared to $31.2 billion in FY22, showing a shortfall of $4.2 billion.

This shortfall was a cause for concern as the country faced a default-like situation at the beginning of the current fiscal year FY24. It is believed that this $4.2 billion was either sold in Dubai at much higher rates or sent home through illegal channels. In the first week of September, the government initiated a crackdown against illegal currency businesses and dollar smuggling, which produced positive results, and the rupee started appreciating.

However, the latest move to sign an MoU with the AMF is expected to be helpful for the country in receiving maximum remittances through official channels. Linking RAAST with Buna will facilitate Pakistanis to remit money in real time.

The SBP said the integration of RAAST with Buna aims to facilitate cross-border remittances between the Arab region and Pakistan through formal channels. This initiative will benefit individuals as well as businesses not only through instant, safe and cost-effective cross-border payments, but also by strengthening economic, financial, and investment ties between the Arab countries and Pakistan.