October 14; In a PILDAT virtual course on Understanding Roshan Digital Account, its various components and how do these strengthen Overseas Pakistanis’ bond with Pakistan, speakers highlighted various government initiatives to connect overseas Pakistanis with homeland.
Eminent Speakers at the course included Sayed Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Overseas Pakistanis & Human Resource Development, Syed Irfan Ali, Executive Director, State Bank of Pakistan, Mr. Muhammad Aurangzeb, President and CEO, Habib Bank Limited, H.E. Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Bilal Akbar, Ambassador of Pakistan to KSA, H.E. Mr. Moazzam Ahmad Khan, High Commissioner of Pakistan to United Kingdom, and H.E. Dr. Asad Majeed Khan, Ambassador of Pakistan to USA while special appearance and remarks were made by H.E. Mr. Afzaal Mahmood, Ambassador of Pakistan to UAE. The virtual course by PILDAT was moderated by Mr. Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, President PILDAT.
In his talk on the Need to Mainstream Overseas Pakistanis, Sayed Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari highlighted that the Government changed the definition of overseas Pakistanis which earlier included only those Pakistanis working abroad and sending remittances back to Pakistan, to now also include those Pakistanis born and living abroad. During this government’s tenure, another 1 million people went to work abroad which has increased Pakistan’s remittances, foreign direct investment as well as investment made by overseas Pakistanis in Pakistan’s tourism and economy. This Government has also linked overseas Pakistanis with the complaint portal of Prime Minister, and improved the performance of Overseas Pakistanis Foundation (OPF) by bringing it into profitability. He also shared that the Government is planning to create an Overseas Business Council which will be headed by the Prime Minister to facilitate investments and business opportunities for overseas Pakistanis. It will be a joint initiative of the Government involving Ministries of Commerce, Finance, Board of Investment and Overseas Pakistanis. He said that the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis is also trying to bring in smart cards or remittances cards for overseas Pakistanis in order to facilitate them through a points system to be used on spending and discounts on things like buying plane tickets, stay and shopping, etc.
Speaking on Roshan Digital Account, its Components & Overseas Pakistanis’ Response, Syed Irfan Ali, Executive Director State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and Managing Director Deposit Protection Corporation (DPC), said that the SBP envisaged and took the important initiative of Roshan Digital Account (RDA) to connect 9 million Overseas Pakistanis with Pakistan in September 2020. In one year since the launch of RDA, Pakistan has received US $ 255 billion from overseas Pakistanis residing in 175 countries of the world. Only overseas Pakistanis with a taxed and declared income can open RDA. Through the RDA, the SBP has provided tax concessions and zakat exemptions to overseas Pakistanis while only 10% tax is applied on the profit from Naya Pakistan Certificates. The amount of money deposited by overseas Pakistanis in the RDA is fully repatriable. He said that the SBP will always listen to the complaints of overseas Pakistanis. In addition to the ability to pay for bills in Pakistan, the RDA also facilitates overseas Pakistanis through e-retail options so that they can make online purchases. The SBP has also facilitated Pakistanis through offering Shariah and non-Shariah Naya Pakistan Certificates. The aim of these certificates is to provide an investment opportunity to incentivize overseas Pakistanis. Another initiative of Roshan Apni Car is a facility of car financing for overseas Pakistanis where the SBP has ensured that the usual market delays faced by Pakistanis in car manufacturing are reduced considerably for overseas Pakistanis. House mortgage finance capability is also provided to overseas Pakistanis through Roshan Apna Ghar. The SBP also plans to introduce additional products for overseas Pakistanis through the RDA in the future including facilitation for blue-collar workers.
Mr. Muhammad Aurangzeb, President and CEO, Habib Bank Limited (HBL), speaking on the subject of Role & Performance of Banks in Implementing the Initiative of Roshan Digital Account, highlighted the steps taken by the HBL in integrating Pakistani diaspora with Pakistan’s economy through RDA. He said that since last year when RDA was launched, the HBL has been learning from and improving services for the overseas Pakistanis based on their feedback. He appreciated the role of State Bank of Pakistan in not just collaborating with commercial banks but also finding suitable sponsors to reduce the cost of lending for the overseas Pakistanis. He said that the introduction of RDA by the Government of Pakistan is a real success story for overseas Pakistanis from a vast majority of countries. He said that the HBL has also been playing a vital role in improving the customer outreach by holding active webinars, forming alliances and conducting digital marketing to attract the interest of overseas Pakistanis in RDAs. Charges made by commercial banks on foreign remittances have been revised in collaboration with SBP. RDAs are only for overseas Pakistanis including NICOP holders and Pakistanis living abroad. Non-resident Pakistanis who have moved to Pakistan can also open the account with declared wealth earned abroad.
To highlight the role played by Pakistan’s High Commission in the UK, H.E. Mr. Moazzam Ahmad Khan, High Commissioner of Pakistan to UK, said that almost 1.6 million Pakistanis reside in the UK and comprise of 2% of the total population of the UK. The UK Parliament has 15 members of Pakistan origin represented in the House of Commons while there are 12 members in the House Lords. In addition, there 400 counsellors and mayors of Pakistan origin in the UK. More than 45% of the population belongs to low-income sector, while majority of the Pakistani women are unemployed. Pakistan’s High Commission in the UK, together with support from the SBP, has disseminated information about the RDA among the diaspora which has shown a keen interest and given an overwhelming response to the RDA initiative. He said that there are, however, concerns regarding the RDAs which include business firms not being entitled to the benefits from RDA and Naya Pakistan Certificates (NPC) and hence they not open RDA accounts and avail NPC benefits.
H.E. Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Bilal Akbar, Ambassador of Pakistan to KSA, said that the RDA initiative was much needed for Pakistani community in the KSA. Since 2020, almost 80% RDA accounts have been opened by overseas Pakistanis residing in Saudi Arabia. 87% of Saudi Arabia’s workforce comprises Pakistanis who send almost US $ 2.67 Billion to Pakistan in the form of remittances annually. Pakistan’s embassy in the KSA has been actively promoting RDAs with the help of the SBP. The embassy receives a lot of queries from the Pakistani community regarding RDAs which are addressed. The embassy is also promoting other initiative under the RDA such as Roshan Apna Ghar, Roshan Apni Car, etc. The community can benefit greatly from success stories of the RDA. There are some concerns regarding data protection in the community also. He also said that the Pakistan Embassy in Riyadh can also offer room to be hired for Pakistani banks to hold awareness sessions with the community which will give community a a boost of confidence in the RDA.
H.E. Dr. Asad Majeed Khan, Ambassador of Pakistan to US, said that US is one of the top 5 remittance senders to Pakistan and annually remits US $ 1 million. Pakistani diaspora in the US is professionally well-exposed and is earning more than the average US income bracket. However the remittances from the US are different than those from the Middle East as most remittances are sent towards charitable causes and not subsistence-based remittances towards families living back home. Pakistan’s Embassy in US has been promoting RDA in collaboration with the State Bank of Pakistan and other Pakistani commercial banks due to which Pakistani diaspora in the US has shown an overwhelming response in RDAs. There are, however, several challenges that are faced by the Overseas Pakistanis while trusting the RDAs such as the risk of data protection. He also said that many low-income Pakistani American are not well-versed in utlising technology which is a cause for their inability to join RDA.
H.E. Mr. Afzaal Mehmood, Ambassador of Pakistan to UAE, who was invited to make special remarks at the course owing to his presence, said that RDA has been a great success in the UAE due to a large community of about 1.6 million Pakistanis residing in the UAE. These include businesspersons, labourers and middle class. Most, if not all Pakistanis residing in the UAE are Pakistani citizens and CNIC and Pakistani passport holders who send their remittances to their families in Pakistan through banks but often complained of high interests. This has been resolved through the RDA which is offering 7% rate of return which has encouraged Pakistanis to open accounts. Many Pakistanis have been actively approaching Pakistani Embassy in UAE to find out more about the RDA so we should expect more Pakistanis to be joining RDA in the future.
176 participants joined the PILDAT Virtual Course which included office bearers and members of political parties, academics, professionals, a vast majority of overseas Pakistanis and representatives from Pakistan’s missions abroad.