Rehabilitation of jobless overseas Pakistanis returning home
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While Covid-19 pandemic has crushed the world economy, it has brought the devastation for the developing economies like Pakistan. In this situation, the Imran Khan regime should take tangible revolutionary measures in the larger interest of equitable socio-economic welfare if he genuinely intends to protect the masses from the adverse impact of various aspects of “Exploitative Capitalist System”.
Our expatriate community of over 10.08 million, including those hired through informal channels till 2018, was living in 120 countries and more than 50 percent of them were in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia alone provided jobs to 2.6 million Pakistanis. A number of them have also involved themselves in various businesses and trading in KSA.
Majority of jobless overseas Pakistani workforce belong to rural areas especially central Punjab and Azad Kashmir where land-holdings are very small. Prior to the spread of pandemic contribution of our home-remittances of around 23 billion dollars in 2019-20 had proved to be lifeblood for the economy. Planners in Pakistan have miserably failed to take advantage of home-remittances which amounted to about 6 percent of GDP although total earnings of expatriate Pakistanis were equivalent to 20 percent of our GDP. Therefore, it is the foremost duty of Prime Minister Imran Khan to rehabilitate the returnees who are now much better skilled, hardworking and more efficient. If we really want to revive our economy on war-footing, we need to put our rural economy on top priority because agriculture sector can grow on a short as well as medium term basis ensuring positive results for price stability.
Rural Pakistan possesses a huge potential for quick economic turnaround. Food prices have already raised the overall inflation in the country. Just compare the prices of essential kitchen items of early 80s with their prevalent market prices. As such, the ruling parties’ vote bank has been adversely impacted because there is no reality check of the ground situation to reduce the burden on common man. Economy will not rebound by empty rhetoric. We need to provide some resources to implement the solid “Immaculate Planning”.
As a first step, banking industry can play a key role in generating activities to develop a poor agrarian economy in a short time if adequate banking infrastructure network is set up at unbanked Union Council Centres. Banking sector which plays a vital role in economic development of the country has been simply reduced to a “Cowboy Banking” which is heavily involved in money laundering against securing the public interest. To encourage banking in rural Pakistan, NBP and other public sector bank branches should be immediately opened at the unbanked places at all union council centers in the country for facilitating Supervised Rural Credit, Gold Loans, payment of utility bills and to further accelerate the home-remittances and domestic savings/local investments etc. to raise the productive capacity of the economy. If agro-based industrial units are set up in rural areas by the overseas Pakistanis, it will check urbanization which creates new problems for the country.
Father of the nation had outlined five guiding principles of governance in his historic address to the first Constituent Assembly on 11th August 1947 for building a modern Pakistani One Nation and good inclusive governance.
Imran Khan being a visionary leader needs to adopt a result-oriented style of governance to restore the government writ’s through a direct liaison with the CEOs of different organizations to make them perform their jobs in the true sense.
As a senior banker I personally know that General Zia-ul-Haq’s entire period had benefited from the profits of nationalized commercial banks. He was also in direct contact with the MDs and Chairmen of sensitive institutions dealing with the general price level of goods and services like PASSCO, TCP and other such institutions. Only two persons were controlling the market price structure: Gen Zia-ul-Haq and Seth Abid Hussain.
The General used to monitor the situation personally, without involving his staff and other government functionaries.
Other expatriate Pakistanis who happened to be dual nationals and whose children are well-settled there have not been motivated to invest in Pakistan. Effective steps should be immediately taken to provide proper guarantees and incentives to overseas Pakistanis who want to bring new technology to their country and invest in different sectors like corporate farming, industry, especially trade, to benefit from the CPEC flagship project of Belt and Road initiative launched by the China to connect Asia, Middle East, and Europe.
(The writer is a banker, economist and also central vice-president of Pakistan Awami Tehreek)