x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Remittances to Pakistan to reach $4bn

Last year, expatriates in the emirates remitted an estimated US$3.8 billion - a 50 per cent increase from the US$2.2 billion sent in 2010.

Expatriates transfer money at an exchange shop in Dubai last week.
Expatriates transfer money at an exchange shop in Dubai last week.

DUBAI // A record-breaking sum of money is expected to be sent home to Pakistan by expatriates in the UAE this year, foreign exchange firms say.

Last year, expatriates in the Emirates remitted an estimated US$3.8billion (Dh13.96bn) to Pakistan - a 70 per cent increase from the $2.2bn sent in 2010, according to figures from the Pakistan Embassy.

"I'm being conservative here but I think we will easily get to $4 billion this year," said Syed Faraz Ahmed, the executive director for UAE-based Multinet Trust Exchange.

"In the past six months we have noticed, on average, that people are sending back between 15 and 20 per cent more in remittance compared with last year."

He puts the increase down to help from the Pakistani government, better service from banks and competitive exchange rates.

The exchange rate against the US dollar has risen from about 85 Pakistani rupees in May last year to about 91 rupees. A major factor was the launch of the Pakistan Remittance Initiative by the Pakistan government three years ago.

"The whole role of this initiative is to make it easier and more convenient for Pakistanis to send money home," Mr Ahmed said.

The initiative is run by the State Bank of Pakistan, Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Ministry of Finance. "They have been very proactive in looking at ways to encourage more remittance transfers.

"Six or seven years ago you would be lucky if the money you sent back was cleared within 10 days. But now the banks have got much better and the money is transferred within 48 hours."

Mr Ahmed said the typical amount transferred was about $500, but he has known of cases where as much $100,000 has been sent.

"In the vast majority of cases we see the money is sent to families in Pakistan."

Though the Pakistani community send money home regularly throughout the year, Mr Ahmed expects Ramadan and Eid to be particularly busy.

Jean Claude Farah, the senior vice president at Western Union responsible for the Middle East and Africa, said revenue had increased by 6 per cent in the region in the past quarter and he expected "strong" growth in remittances this year.

"Last year, economic prospects in Mena improved with the resumption of capital inflows, rising crude oil prices and the resurgence in domestic consumption. This means job growth and expansion of disposable income, both of which drive growth," he said.

"We have also witnessed an increase in remittances to India and other South Asian countries that is primarily due to a weak rupee and robust economic activity in the GCC countries, which are major destinations of recent migrants."

Farooq Alam, 27, a shop owner in Deira, regularly sends money to his parents and family in Pakistan.

"I send about Dh2,000 every two or three months," he said. "I have my parents and two younger brothers in Lahore so this money is important because it eases the burden on them a little."

He moved to Dubai in 2009 and said that although costs are high in running his business, he manages to save enough to send to his family. "I feel it's part of my duty to support my family back home," said Naveed Choudhary, 32, who works in retail in Dubai.

"The money I and many others send back can make the difference between our families struggling or not having to worry about putting food on the table."

According to the Migration Policy Institute, a think tank in Washington, DC, Pakistan received a total of $9.6bn in remittances from its diaspora around the world in 2010.

That figure rose to $10bn in 2011, according to the Pakistan Embassy.

nhanif@thenational.ae