RIYADH, Feb 01 (INP) An overwhelming number of Pakistanis working and doing business in Saudi Arabia have welcomed their government’s announcement of $1 billion bond issuance for overseas Pakistanis to expand the housing sector in the country. The announcement was made on Friday by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during his visit to the Karachi Stock Exchange where the index had climbed up to a new all-time high of 33,786 two weeks back. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar was present when Sharif made the announcement over the weekend. “The government intends to issue bonds to raise $1 billion worth of foreign exchange from expatriate Pakistanis to expand the housing sector in the country,” the prime minister said. According to reports, the idea of $1 billion Pakistan fund (bond) was floated by some Pakistani professionals in December 2013 at a function here chaired by then Ambassador Naeem Khan who welcomed the idea and assured the gathering of taking it up with the authorities in Islamabad. The Kingdom hosts more than 2.2 million Pakistani expatriates who remitted $4.5 billion — almost 32 percent of total remittances the Pakistani government received from overseas Pakistanis worldwide in 2014. It is anticipated that remittances from overseas Pakistanis in the Kingdom may rise to almost $5 billion, according to official forecasts. Subsequent visits by officials from Islamabad to the capital were informed of the $1b fund idea. The idea was also discussed with Sen. Mushahidullah Khan and former Punjab governor Chaudhury Sarwar during their visits here, said Khalid Akram Rana, an IT/Telecom professional working with STC and head of PML-N Riyadh. However, Chaudhury Faryad, a Pakistani investor who heads Almina Group of Companies (one of the most successful Pakistani-owned foreign firm doing business in the Kingdom) feels Pakistan has ample funds so it doesn’t need to float bonds to raise additional funds as solution to its problems. “We simply need roti (bread), security and electricity. For that the solution is elimination of corruption, good management and controls which will generate the funds required.” Office Assistant Sajid Umar is, however, excited about the bond. “I will buy it for sure if and when I have extra money to spend.” Amir Shahzad, a technology consultant by profession, considers it an excellent initiative “provided the fund raised by the overseas Pakistanis Bond is channelled in such a way that it trickles down to the middle class and the lower income group.” For that we need proper road map prepared by professionals having experience in such matters. Pakistanis worldwide have such people among them,” he added. Rana Mohammad Khalid, President of Pakistan Thinkers Forum, said, “We are ready to invest. We are ready to invest in industrial ventures also, if similar bond is issued and our monies remain protected.” Sheraz Qureshi, who has worked on Key Strategic Programs for Saudi Telecom and Mobily, commenting on the announcement said, “It was a simple idea floated by some professionals here and surged from an empathy for Pakistan. We are glad that this suggestion has been accepted and is been considered for implementation.” Mubashir Anwaar, a professional working for Al Mawarid Recruitment Co., also appreciated the bond idea and said, “circulation of money in economic system of a country is like blood circulation in human body, therefore it is a good initiative.” Zeshan Shahzad, who heads Corporate Solutions Co. (Pakistani owned foreign company engaged in IT & Telecom work here) felt the situation demanded a robust initiative to push knowledge-based businesses by Pakistani firms not only in Saudi Arabia but elsewhere. Analysts are of the view that overseas Pakistanis in the Kingdom may buy this bond in maximum number and in value for three reasons: They are the highest in number among Pakistani expatriate community worldwide; They have been remitting the highest amount every year. Thirdly, because they were the first to suggest to the government to launch such initiative and must therefore step up to the challenge.
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