KARACHI: Saudi Arabia, which by millions of Pakistanis is called a second home, has been the top contributor to foreign remittances during the first five months of the current fiscal year, Pakistan’s central bank revealed on Tuesday.
Overseas Pakistani workers remitted $9.299 billion between July and November – the first five months of FY20, compared with $9.282 billion in the same period last year, according to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP).
Throughout November, all remittances from abroad amounted to $1.8 billion, 9 percent less than in October, and 9.4 percent higher than in November 2018.
Inflows from Saudi Arabia reached $407.48 million in November 2019, increasing by 3 percent from October. Between July and November alone they were $2.15 billion.
In FY19, the total amount of remittances from Saudi Arabia was $5 billion – the largest inflow coming from a single country.
The inflows are on the rise as an increasing number of Pakistanis have sought employment in the Kingdom. According to November data from the Bureau of Emigration and Overseas Employment (BEOE), more than 294,000 Pakistanis were employed in Saudi Arabia, compared with 100,900 in 2018.
Experts say that the increase is backed by Saudi Arabia’s expanding economy, rising oil prices, and the Saudi government’s focus on Pakistan. “The increase in oil prices has strengthened economic conditions of the Kingdom, creating new demand, and also retaining the existing Pakistani workforce,” economist Dr. Ather Ahmed told Arab News.
“Thanks to (Crown Prince) Mohammad bin Salman and his special focus on Pakistan, not only relations between the two brotherly countries are strengthening, but Pakistanis in large numbers are also availed by employment (opportunities) in the Kingdom,” he added.
The central bank’s remittance inflow data shows that in November, the UAE remitted $383.77 million, compared with $350.35 million in November 2018. Remittances from the USA in November reached $298.64 million, compared with $268.32 million in 2018. From the UK, the November number was $285.56 million ($246.78 million in 2018).
Inflows from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar were $172.25 million ($153.51 million in 2018), while from the European Union they reached $52.76 million ($42.22 million in 2018).
According to the SBP, inflows sent from other countries, including Malaysia, Norway, Switzerland, Australia, Canada and Japan, in November were $219.19 million, compared with $207.74 million in November 2018.
Remittances play an important role in Pakistan’s economy, especially as a major contributor to the balance of payment. The inflows from abroad also lift from poverty many people in the country’s rural areas.
Economists say that due to a lack of political will Pakistan has been deprived of long-term benefits of remittances from abroad, which could be achieved by offering its overseas workers investment opportunities.