In order to provide an ownership structure in Pakistan for remittance facilitation, State Bank of Pakistan (the central bank), Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Ministry of Finance launched a joint initiative called Pakistan Remittance Initiative (PRI) in early 2009. This initiative has been taken to achieve the objectives of (a) facilitating and supporting efficient flow of workers’ remittances and (b) catering for other financial services needs of Overseas Pakistanis and their families back home.
At the outset of the drive, a comprehensive objective analysis of the Home Remittance System was carried out with a view to; collect and analyze remittance related data, identify the bottlenecks and weak links in the system, review the recent international efforts on remittances specially in the global and regional perspective, evaluate schemes earlier implemented to enhance remittance flows to Pakistan, and compile practices followed by various jurisdictions to boost remittances. The subject analysis led PRI to formulate a comprehensive strategy aimed at greater commitment of financial sector towards remittance services and resultant inculcation of remittance facilitation culture, transparency of remittance market with adequate consumer protection, and efficiency of payment system infrastructure.
Over a period of time, through a consultative process at PRI’s end, the number of financial institutions involved in remittance services has increased significantly. The realization of business cases in remittances by additional financial institutions has not only facilitated the larger strata of remittance beneficiaries but also resulted in creating a more competitive environment with resultant improvement in efficiency. PRI has also encouraged banks to open dedicated Home Remittance Centers. This is being done in addition to utilizing microfinance banks and postal network for remittance payments. In terms of capacity building, PRI has ongoing training programs related to various facets of remittances services including development of remittance products/services, model IT infrastructure for remittances, efficient delivery processes etc. At the same time, PRI is also encouraging financial institutions in Pakistan to enhance their outreach overseas for collection of remittances through new remittance related arrangements with entities already collecting remittances for other corridors. The key to the facilitation in remittances shall always remain ‘nearer to remitter and nearer to beneficiary’.
State Bank of Pakistan has taken number of steps to develop Payment Systems Architecture of the country. In this respect, Real-time Interbank Settlement Mechanism (PRISM-RTGS) is now being used to transfer and settle inter-bank Home Remittance transactions. This has enabled banks to transfer inter-bank transactions into beneficiaries’ accounts in the minimum time frame. Apart from RTGS, remittance transactions are also being settled through Payment Switches. These steps have resulted in reduction of remittance delivery time.
In order to provide a reliable and immediate contact point, 24 hours, 7 days a week; a Call Centre has been established by PRI. All overseas Pakistanis and their families back home can inquire about the remittance services of banks and lodge their complaints with the call centre (0092-21-111-222-774). There are toll free numbers for overseas Pakistanis residing in 12 countries/ regions of the world. Further PRI has its own website http://www.pri.gov.pk .
Home remittances to Pakistan witnessed a phenomenal growth in recent years. Home remittances rose from US$ 6.4 billion in FY 2007-08 to US$ 13.2 billion by FY 2011-12.