RIYADH — Pakistani expatriates collectively own a $587 million+ organization back home but were unaware until the newly appointed Chairman of the Overseas Pakistan Foundation (OPF) broke the news last week at a town-hall-style meet of more than 500 Pakistanis at the embassy here.
More than 2.5 million Pakistanis work in the Kingdom — the largest community among Pakistani Diaspora worldwide. Last year they remitted close to $5.6 billion (largest amount among the Diaspora) and, according to several analysts, they will continue to hold the coveted spot for years to come – thanks to the Saudi economy which despite oil prices see-saw and several worldwide institutional critics’ tell-tale analyses, continue to show not only resilience but a smooth sailing towards a “new normal” – an economy without oil as per Vision 2030 and its National Transformation Plan 2020.
Dr. Amjad Malik, a British lawyer of Pakistan origin who was recently selected by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to head the humongous outfit (it’s worth more than the Karachi Stock Exchange whose 40% equity was recently bought for $85 million by a consortium of Chinese Stock Exchanges), has been tasked to put it on track – “make it a viable non-for-profit organization to benefit overseas Pakistanis and their families by engaging them effectively, the,” Dr. Malik told Saudi Gazette.
Besides facilitating inclusiveness of the overseas Pakistanis socially, culturally and politically, Dr. Malik said the OPF will also serve as a bridge and where needed shall provide collective platform for those overseas Pakistanis who would want to invest and reap the benefits of the growing enabling business and economic environment after the success of the anti-terrorism National Action Plan and the ongoing $56 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor. The Chinese-Pakistani “Marshall Plan” in the region is being considered a game-changer for Asia with potential to shift the region’s center of economic gravity.
With this developing scenario and cognizant of Pakistani expat powerhouse in the Kingdom, PM Sharif agreed and announced a year back the $1 billion Overseas Pakistanis Bond — to fund the country’s housing sector where returns are higher than average and expats invest the most.
The $1 billion Bond idea was first floated in December 2013 by Pakistani professionals in Riyadh (as reported then in SG) and was immediately welcomed by Islamabad, leading the Prime Minister to make its announcement in February 2014 on his visit to the Karachi Stock Exchange.
“We can definitely launch the Bond for the expats, if the PM gives us the go ahead,” said Dr. Malik to SG when asked if OPF can sponsor it on its own or enable it through the Stock Exchange or on public-private partnership or on 100% OP equity basis.
Established decades ago with the intent to act as a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) for the welfare of overseas Pakistanis (8.5 million as of 2016), the gigantic organization has OPs as its mandatory stakeholder (each OP pays almost $69 prior to flying out in pursuit of greener pasture) – an information which was long withheld from them wittingly or unwittingly until the young savvy British-Pakistani lawyer (himself an OP) handed to them their rights, duties, responsibilities, etc. to the shock and awe of many of the attendees in Riyadh.
“Theoretically, OPF is an outfit similar to any other not-for-profit organization operating worldwide, but what makes it standout is its enabling legal framework, operational capabilities and capacity building abilities,” Said Khalid Rana who is President of PML-N in Riyadh.
“If all ducks are in the row and political will prevails, we can do wonders” said Dr. Malik. “…specially for the expats in the Kingdom.”
Amb Manzur ul Haq suggested launching special measures and conveniences for KSA-based expats because of their comparatively lesser disposal income.
Attorney Malik wants to immediately engage the OPS going forward so he can execute the initiatives on a two-way street basis – by digging into the collective minds of the stakeholders and their knowledge-base, expertise, available resources and skills. He therefore announced forming for each region an Overseas Pakistanis Advisory Council (OPAC) with members drawn on merit and value-addition capabilities.
“It’s a challenge but we will get there political will prevailing,” said Mr. Malik.