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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday launched "Roshan Digital Account", and stated it was a big step towards providing opportunities to overseas Pakistanis or Non-Resident Pakistanis (NRPs) to investment in the country's mega projects.

Speaking at the inaugural ceremony of "Roshan Digital Account", the prime minister said that overseas Pakistanis were the biggest asset and resource pool for the country that could be tapped by creating an enabling environment.

The prime minister said that he was unable to understand why overseas Pakistanis were being looked with suspicion.

The prime minister said that two new cities were being constructed - one on Bundle Island in Sindh, and other Ravi City in Lahore - as well as ML-I and construction of mega dams, which would generate a huge economic activity leading to increase in taxes, and thereby helping the country to deal with the challenge of debt.

The prime minister said that as long the country's exports did not reach a desirable level to enable the country to repay debt, incentives would be provided to overseas Pakistanis for investment, so that the country could meet the debt liabilities.

He said that when his government came to power the trade gap was over $20 billion with historic current account deficit. He said that shortage of dollars directly impacted the prices as depreciation/devaluation of rupee contributed to price hike of commodities in the country.

"We want overseas Pakistanis' investment but unfortunately Pakistan has not been able to provide any viable opportunity to them," he said.

The Prime Minister's Office said that it is a major initiative by the State Bank of Pakistan, together with commercial banks operating in Pakistan. These accounts will provide innovative banking solutions for millions of Non-Resident Pakistanis (NRPs) seeking to undertake fund transfers, bill payments and investment activities in Pakistan.

For the first time in the country's history, the NRPs will be able to remotely open an account through an entirely digital and online process without any need to visit a bank branch, embassy or consulate.

Opening a Roshan Digital Account will require a basic set of information and documents, and will only take 48 hours, once all documents are complete.

Customers can choose either a foreign currency or rupee dominated account, or both. Funds in these accounts will be fully repatriable, without the need for any regulatory approval.

The Roshan Digital Account is an initiative by the State Bank of Pakistan to serve the banking needs of overseas Pakistanis.

Staff reporter from Karachi adds: The Roshan Digital Account is a new initiative of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), in partnership with major banks in Pakistan.

The Roshan Digital Account is for non-resident Pakistanis (NRPs). Through this account, NRPs will be fully integrated with Pakistan's banking and payments system.

Addressing the audience, the Prime Minister dedicated the occasion to overseas Pakistanis, noting that they have always made Pakistan proud through their achievements and dedication to their motherland. He was delighted that SBP was offering a new channel to connect overseas Pakistanis with their motherland financially and congratulated the Governor SBP, Dr. Reza Baqir, on this initiative.

The Prime Minister called overseas Pakistanis the greatest resource of the country. He said that in many parts of the world, expatriates have played an important role in the development of their countries. However, he regretted that Pakistan has historically been unable to tap its diaspora effectively. However, he remarked that his government is committed to better integrating overseas Pakistanis into the local economy, and that the Roshan Digital Account is very important first step in this direction.

The Prime Minister highlighted that the country needs more investment from abroad to fund the current account deficit and raise foreign exchange reserves. In this context, he remarked that overseas Pakistanis can help the country by investing in recently announced mega projects of the country through the Roshan Digital Account. In particular, he emphasized the on-going boom in the housing sector, which provides very attractive investment opportunities for overseas Pakistanis.

In his address, Governor SBP Dr. Reza Baqir noted that the Roshan Digital Account represents a new era in the banking system of Pakistan, as it features a completely digital on-boarding process. To enable this historic change, SBP introduced all the necessary amendments to existing rules and regulations. He explained that these accounts will initially be available through eight major banks in Pakistan, with more banks added in due course.

The Governor said that today we have crossed another milestone as part of SBP's commitment to a digital financial ecosystem for Pakistan's economy and in keeping with the Prime Minister's vision. He highlighted that the name of the account reflected the ethos of NRPs, who make their country proud through their hard work and passion. It is to these star performers abroad that the "Roshan" account is dedicated, he said.

The Governor highlighted that opening the account will require a basic set of information and documents. Banks have been asked to complete all necessary customer due diligence within 48 hours after receiving complete information. He assured NRPs that SBP and the banks were committed to providing them a world-class user experience and to proactively resolving any problems they may encounter during the roll-out of the initiative. In this context, he highlighted the dedicated customer support and monitoring system established by SBP and the banks.

The Governor thanked different overseas Pakistani fora, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Overseas Pakistani and Human Resource Development, the Foreign Office, the eight participating banks and the think tank constituted by the Prime Minister for their valuable support in refining and promoting the initiative.

In his address, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue Dr. Abdul Hafeez Sheikh congratulated the State Bank of Pakistan on this new initiative. He outlined the difficult macroeconomic conditions the country was facing when the government took over and the bold decisions taken to bring stability and promote economic growth in the country. He also highlighted the swift measures taken by the government in the last few months to help people and the business community cope with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Looking ahead, he expressed confidence that the Roshan Digital Account would pave the way for overseas Pakistanis to increase their investment in Pakistan.

The ceremony was attended by ministers, parliamentarians, presidents and CEOs of banks, and senior officials from SBP.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020