Addressing launch of Sohni Dharti Remittance Program, premier regrets that his government was forced to seek an IMF loan due to a widening trade deficit
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday urged his economic team to further incentivize and facilitate overseas Pakistanis to boost their remittances and investment in Pakistan.
“I urge the economic team to keep in mind that we have to incentivize our nine million overseas Pakistanis—as asset for the country—and ensure ease of doing business so that that they send their remittances through banking channels,” he said at the launching ceremony of the Sohni Dharti Remittance Program, which is aimed at encouraging the use of formal banking channels for remittances.
Overseas Pakistanis, the premier continued, should be treated as VIPs, as facilitating them benefited both them and the country.
The Sohni Dharti Remittance Program is a point-based loyalty program that would grant reward points to remitters and their beneficiaries for remittances sent through formal banking channels. The accumulated points can then be redeemed at participating public sector entities to avail their services for free. The government has launched a mobile app—in both English and Urdu—that remitters can download to register for the program and redeem their points. According to a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office, remitters can add one beneficiary relative and transfer reward points to them.
The Sohni Dharti Remittance Program divided remitters into three categories—Green will be awarded one percent in awards for annual remittances up to and including $10,000; Gold will be awarded 1.25 percent in awards for $10,001 to $30,000 in annual remittances; and Platinum remitters will be awarded 1.5 percent for annual remittance of over $30,000. Overseas Pakistan would receive special discounts in public sector entities, including on intentional air tickets of PIA; payment for extra luggage; mobile phone duty payment; purchase of vehicles; duty on imported vehicles; renewal of CNIC/NICOP; insurance premium; OPF school fees and purchases from Utility Stores.
During his address, Khan said the government would soon launch another program that would allow overseas Pakistanis to purchase houses and invest in real estate in Pakistan through Roshan Digital Accounts in a safe and transparent manner. He said banks would check and verify legal details of housing societies so overseas Pakistanis could be protected from fraud. He also directed the Planning Division to offer tax incentives to overseas Pakistanis on their investments in real estate.
The prime minister regretted that the country’s widening trade deficit had forced his government to go to the International Monetary Fund for a loan. “Although our exports are increasing, they are still less than our imports. This causes pressure on our rupee, devaluation of our currency and inflation,” he said, adding that this had caused Islamabad to seek IMF’s financial support 20 times.
Khan claimed that with Pakistan’s economy growing and imports increasing, pressure was also mounting on the current account. “When pressure comes on the current account, it also puts pressure on the rupee and we have to approach the IMF,” he added.
However, he said, the growth in large scale manufacturing witnessed during the COVID-19 pandemic and remittances from overseas Pakistanis had helped bridge the gap in current account. He stressed that remittances by overseas Pakistan had been a “big support” during a difficult time.