Doubling Foreign Remittances to Rebuild Flood-Ravaged Pakistan
While there have been high-profile recent efforts by overseas Pakistanis to raise millions of dollars to fund rescue and relief efforts after the recent devastating floods, it is now time to begin to shift focus on to the much longer term and significantly more expensive reconstruction phase that will requires billions, not millions, of dollars.
World Bank economist Sanket Mohapatra has said in a recent post that remittances by overseas Pakistanis have played a significant role in Pakistan's economic improvement. Not only have such remittances contributed to significant poverty reduction in Pakistan "by an impressive 17.3 percentage points between 2001 and 2008 (from 34.5 percent in 2001-02 to 17.2 percent in 2007-08)", but "continued strong growth in worker’s remittances in the past few years has also contributed to improvements in the external current account balance” and “have facilitated improvement in the country’s external position”, according to a World Bank report released on July 30, 2010.
World Bank's Mohaptra adds that "there is now a risk that devastating floods that have hit Pakistan, killing more than 1,200 people and leaving 2 million people homeless, could reverse some of the gains in poverty achieved in the last few years, which were already believed to have been weakened in the wake of the recent financial crisis and rise in food prices. During past natural disasters, migrants have sent additional remittances to help their families and friends in need – for example, during the Pakistan earthquake in 2005, in Philippines after typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng in 2009, after an earthquake in Haiti in early 2010, and in other countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. It is likely that the Pakistani diaspora will send additional financial resources to help their family, friends and even larger communities. These person-to-person transfers could complement official aid efforts".
The cost and the task of post-flood reconstruction may appear to be monumental, but I feel confident that global Pakistani community is equal to it. Already, non-resident Pakistanis have been sending home nearly ten billion US dollars a year in remittances to their home country. And their invested assets are estimated to be in hundreds of billions of US dollars in different parts of the world. I believe Pakistani diaspora can double their remittances in the next twelve months, thereby boosting Pakistan's overall economy by a $10 billion stimulus for reconstruction.
If a significant part of this additional $10 billion in remittances goes into special, professionally managed, investment funds specifically for post-floods reconstruction and rehabilitation, it will be an even greater boost to Pakistan's overall economy. To put it in perspective, the $10 billion in a year would be 5 times the annual foreign aid, and twice the peak FDI Pakistan received in 2007, the last year of healthy economic growth in 2007-2008.
Here's a video clip of Pakistan's billionaire real estate developer Malik Riaz Husain pledging $2 billion of his own wealth to help the flood victims rebuild:
Pakistani-Americans Extend Help to Flood Victims
World Bank Report on Pakistan released on July 30, 2010
Pakistan's Economic Performance 2008-2010
Aid, Trade, Investments and Remittances in Pakistan
World Bank Blog on Impact of Remittances in Pakistan