Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday said Pakistan's economic indicators had improved compared to other countries despite the Covid-19 pandemic, adding that the country's exports had shown an increase higher than that of its regional competitors.
The prime minister was speaking at a ceremony in Islamabad celebrating the milestone of the Roshan Digital Accounts (RDA) initiative crossing the $500 million mark in remittances. He has previously commented on this milestone in statement on Twitter.
“I want to thank our Overseas Pakistanis for responding so strongly to SBP’s #RoshanDigitalAccounts. 87,833 accounts opened from 97 countries around the world. $500 million sent to Pakistan in just 5 months. Momentum continues to rise with $243 million coming in last 6 weeks alone,” PM Khan tweeted on Tuesday.
The RDA — a joint initiative of the government and the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) in collaboration with commercial banks operating in the country — was inaugurated by the premier in September 2020. The main purpose of the initiative is to attract millions of Pakistanis living abroad by offering much higher returns on deposits compared to returns in the developed economies.
Speaking on the improvements in economic indicators, he said Pakistan had seen a record improvement in exports, which had risen more than its competitors in the region such as India and Bangladesh.
This, he said, happened at a time when economies of other countries were suffering due to the pandemic yet "Pakistan's economy is going in a positive direction."
He paid particular emphasis on the growth in Pakistan's textile sector and how it was attracting investment and new textile mills were being opened.
"They can't find [enough] skilled workers for textile factories in Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Sialkot," the premier said, adding that this was all a result of the "conscious effort" of the government to increase exports and keep the rupee stable.
The prime minister said there had been a "record" current account deficit when the PTI assumed power. He said this depreciated the rupee which caused prices of imports to rise, something which impacted the poor the most.
"Our people suffered through a tough time. We realised that until our reserves are not built up, we won't get investment in the correct way," he said. The long term solution for this was to "increase exports".
He also pointed out the record repayment of debt his government had achieved, saying around Rs6,000 billion in debts had been repaid.
The premier said the success of the RDA initiative was due to the efforts of overseas Pakistanis but added that "there is still great potential left [to be tapped]".
He said his interaction with overseas Pakistanis had always been present since his days as a cricketer. "When I started fund raising for Shaukat Khanum [Memorial Cancer Hospital], they were the biggest donors, so I realised that this was a major potential."
He urged the SBP to create a specialised cell to address the issues of overseas Pakistanis and to facilitate them, especially those abroad who wanted to send remittances back. "The faster you do this the more the amounts will increase," said the prime minister.
Imran said more could be done to advertise the RDA initiative to overseas Pakistanis and he believed that the electronic media currently was lagged behind in effectively providing information.
The premier also lauded the role played by banks in the RDA initiative and called upon them to use their profits to grow the economy. He said the role of the banks was critical to ensure success of two other initiatives by his government: Naya Pakistan Housing Scheme and the development of small and medium (SME) industry.
"Foreclosure laws were a major hurdle," said the prime minister, adding that everyone dreams of buying their own house. He called upon banks to thus "participate fully" in the scheme because "it is the one thing that can pick up our growth rate."