DUBAI // Pakistani workers in the UAE are expected to send a record amount of money home to family this year, the country's ambassador says.
Remittances to Pakistan are expected to jump by more than 50 per cent, from US$2.2 billion (Dh8.08bn) last year to $3.8bn this year, according to embassy estimates.
The increase has been attributed to awareness campaigns run by the Pakistani embassy and consulate, and improvements to the banking system and regulations in Pakistan.
"It's free to remit money to Pakistan through banks or exchange centres," said Jamil Ahmed Khan, the Pakistani ambassador to the UAE.
"The government and Pakistani missions here are encouraging people to remit through banks, and those honoured for the highest remittances will be facilitated with the best services, both at the embassy here [in Abu Dhabi] and the consulate general in Dubai."
Mr Khan said Pakistan was likely to receive more than $10bn in remittances from around the world for the fiscal year to the end of this month - an increase of $1.74bn, or almost 24 per cent on the previous year.
This has helped the country to boost its foreign-exchange reserves to a record $17.51bn.
According to the State Bank of Pakistan, expatriates sent back more than $1bn a month for the past three months.
Mr Khan praised his country's expatriates in the Emirates for promoting a "good and positive" image of the country, and urged the community to continue working in a spirit of nationalism.
There are 1.2 million Pakistani expatriates in the UAE.
The embassy estimates that if the 70 per cent of nationals who are blue-collar workers in the Emirates sent $1,000 each a year, it would raise $840 million.
If the 20 per cent of Pakistanis that are white-collar professionals sent back $5,000 each a year, it would raise $1.2bn, according to embassy estimates.
And if the 10 per cent who are traders sent $15,000 each, it could bring in $1.8bn.
That would mean an annual contribution of $3.8bn a year.
In the past week alone, the community had sent back more than Dh15m, which was also a record.
Expatriates who send back the highest amounts are being promised direct service at the embassy or consulate without the need to wait in queues, including for national ID card renewals.
A proposal has also been sent to the government in Islamabad to honour those who send at least $2m with a national award.
"These measures will encourage more people to send money through legal channels, which will support Pakistan's economy and reduce money laundering," Mr Khan said.
"Overseas Pakistanis are like the ambassadors of the country and have made a significant contribution towards dispelling the misperception about Pakistan."
He described expatriates as the backbone of the country's economy, and said they were contributing significantly to Pakistan's growth. For Mobisher Rabbani, a Pakistani businessman who has lived in the UAE most of his life, people sent money back because they wanted to help the country's economy.
"I would say the urge to help a country that has been struggling lately is greater than any of the incentives that the embassy is putting forward," Mr Rabbani said. "We send back on average about Dh25,000 a month to Pakistan, but it's something everyone does."
He said the incentive of better service at the country's embassy and consulate had been promised about a decade ago.
"The problem was that it was never implemented," Mr Rabbani said. "It's something everyone would be in favour of but they need to put it into action."
Adnan Hafeez, a manager in Dubai, said most Pakistanis in the UAE had a desire to help people back home. "People feel it is their responsibility to help the country and their families back home," Mr Hafeez said. "With all the problems that the country has been going through over the past few years, it's really important we do what we can to help."