Islamabad: (Parliament Times) Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday said that the Roshan Digital Account is a big step for Pakistani expatriates to participate in nation-building.
The Roshan Digital Account is an initiative by the State Bank of Pakistan to serve the banking needs for overseas Pakistanis so it is easier for them to invest in their home country.
“Our biggest asset is the overseas Pakistanis and we were unable to tap their potential previously,” said the premier, during his address at the launch ceremony in Islamabad.
The prime minister said that progress made by India and China can be linked to their expatriate community.
“The way we should have brought overseas Pakistanis back and helped them in nation-building, we couldn’t do that unfortunately. Hence, the opening of this Roshan Digital Account is a big step for Pakistan.”
Listing various new projects, such as the Ravi City waterfront project and the ML-1 railway project, he said the help of overseas Pakistanis is needed for all of them.
PM Imran said that nearly half of the government’s revenue is spent on payment of loans and there is a need for the country to move towards wealth creation.
“We need to increase our economic activity to an extent where we are able to comfortably pay off these loans,” he said, adding that this was the aim of the construction sector, as it is one that in turn, supports 30 other sectors.
He said when the government came into power, there was a $40 billion trade deficit. “Our exports stood at $20bn, whereas our imports were roughly at around $60bn.”
“And of course, [we had] a record-high current account deficit of $20bn — after deducting remittances.”
He said with a reduction in dollars, the rupee falls, there is inflation and people stop investing.
“This results in a decline in wealth and investment […] this is why we need dollar investments from overseas Pakistanis. We have seen an increase in remittances but now wish for there to be greater investment in the country.”
He said the government had been unable to present any “viable” options to overseas Pakistanis in the past, but the two aforementioned mega projects are an excellent opportunity for them to invest.
Speaking of the perception surrounding dual nationals in Pakistan, he questioned why they are considered “traitors”. “They are viewed with suspicion”.
“We must understand why these nine million people left in the first place. We were unable to provide them jobs. And a lot of them acquired qualifications from abroad. They are so qualified that we do not have suitable jobs for them here. And for the jobs that we do have here, we cannot afford to pay the remuneration they deserve.”
The prime minister said we must all recognise that overseas Pakistanis are “our greatest asset”.
“There is no greater asset. We have excellent minds, brilliant professionals sitting in countries abroad and entrepreneurs. As soon as we create the right conditions, a large resource pool can return [to serve],” he said.
PM Imran said that those who look at overseas Pakistanis with “suspicion” should know that they are, perhaps, more patriotic than the people who are living in Pakistan.
He said that this was because overseas Pakistanis, when they went abroad, knew the importance of their own country as they faced difficulties such as Islamophobia.
The prime minister said that until the export levels can be raised in the post-coronavirus economic environment, it is the expatriates who have to be encouraged to invest.
The prime minister congratulated State Bank Governor Reza Baqir and finance adviser Abdul Hafeez Shaikh and their economic think tanks for the “first big step” in taking the country to great heights.
Predicting a “construction boom” in the country due to the government’s policies, the premier urged overseas Pakistanis to make use of this initiative and invest wholeheartedly in the country.
A central bank initiative
In a press release issued earlier today, Prime Minister’s Office said that the initiative by the central bank will work with commercial banks operating in Pakistan.
“For the first time in the country’s history, Non-Returning Pakistanis (NRP) will be able to remotely open an account through an entirely digital and online process without any need to visit a bank branch, embassy, or consulate,” it said.
“The customer can choose either foreign currency or rupee dominated account, or both. Funds in these accounts will be fully repatriable, without the need for any regulatory approval,” the statement read.
Speaking to Bloomberg last month, SBP Governor Dr Reza Baqir had said the new facility will be available to the nine million non-resident Pakistanis, allowing them to invest money in local stock markets, buy government bonds and securities, and avail basic banking services.
The SBP boss had added that at present, at least eight Pakistani banks will facilitate the Roshan Digital Accounts and allow overseas Pakistanis to deposit funds in either US dollars or Pakistani rupees.