Incentives for expats on cards to boost foreign remittances

Published in The Nation on February 17, 2020

ISLAMABAD –  The government has chalked out a comprehensive plan to boost flow of foreign remittance in the country by incentivizing the Pakistani expatriates, using legal channels to send money to their homes. The move was aimed at promoting legal means among Pakistani expatriates for the transfer of remittances and discouraging the use of Hawala/Hundi, a top official of Bureau of Emigration and Overseas Employment (BEOE) told APP.

He said the idea was worked out by a committee on remittances chaired by the Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance & Revenue Hafeez Sheikh. During a recent meeting, he said the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development had agreed to facilitate the emigrants in opening new bank accounts.

“So the BEOE has given directions to facilitate every outgoing emigrant for opening of a new account so that a card like debit/credit card will be issued to them by the banks for different kind of incentives.” He said the user would amass some points on swiping the card for transfer of remittances from abroad. “After implementation of the plan, Pakistani expats will get incentives like concession in air tickets and permission for bringing a bit more luggage against the approved weight and two mobiles.”

The card holders’ families might be given some packages on purchasing edible items from the utility stores, he added. He said the Foreign Exchange Remittance Card, being issued by the Overseas Pakistanis Foundation, would be abolished.

To a query, the official said the incentives had been worked out by keeping in mind the demands of expats and their families. At present, he said the banks in Pakistan laid less focus on boosting transfer of remittances through legal ways due to certain reasons while the process of transacting money from the Middle East through illegal channels was easy and cost-effective.

“A Pakistani expat can send $200 or above in one transaction without any fee, against which the bank was supposed to pay 16 Saudi Riyals to the foreign exchange companies abroad.” He said the ministry of overseas Pakistanis had requested the government for giving the banks 20 Riyals against the transaction of at least $100. The clearance of the banks’ dues would now be done within six months which earlier took one year, he added. It was also suggested in the meeting that the government would allocate budget for sensitization of expats to promote use of legal channels for remittances. He said the remittances stood at 22 billion dollars last year and now the government intended to take it to 24 billion dollars in the current fiscal year.

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