PM’s Think Tank Mulls Over Digital Bank Accounts for Overseas Pakistanis

A special meeting of the PM’s think tank was held during the Eid holidays with Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance & Revenue Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh in the chair.

All other members of the high-level group also participated in the meeting while Governor State Bank of Pakistan joined the proceedings on special invitation.

During the meeting, the work done by the Finance & Banking Committee was the primary focus apart from the feedback from the committee on social safety nets. Sultan Ali Allana presented the joint work of the committee on banks and financial institutions to improve liquidity and credit for individuals and businesses.

The emphasis was on digital account offerings for overseas Pakistanis, with reference to its objectives, key processes, product features as well as key regulatory and administrative challenges.

Shoukat Tarin and Sultan Ali Allana shared other proposals, including suggestions on enhancement of temporary relief facilities, expanding lending to SMEs, and enabling demand growth through expanding consumer lending and encouraging housing finance.

Advisor Commerce and Dr. Ishrat Husain talked about the need for due diligence with reference to potentially adverse effects of the new scheme on existing remittances/ products, FATF concerns, and harmonization of all initiatives aimed at the promotion of digital economy. The experience of the Pakistan Banao Certificate needs to be kept as a benchmark to plug potential loopholes while offering a new product.

Advisor Finance stressed the need for demand trials in pursuit of developing the target market. The proposal by Arif Habib for the reduction of NADRA fees in the data verification process got a particular endorsement from other members, as this wholly public-owned entity should not keep profit as the primary motive in its operations.

Governor, SBP appreciated various recommendations of the Committee on improving liquidity for individuals and businesses and shared that SBP, in collaboration with MOF and CDNS has been in the final phase of launching a saving product for overseas Pakistanis, in partnership with banks and CDNS, where a lot of back-end work has already been sorted out.

Dr Ishrat Husain and other participants raised concerns about the level of automation and digitization within CDNS and stressed for the need of combining of SBP’s and Committee’s proposals to offer more robust and legally compliant solution.

Shoukat Tarin briefed that multiple consultative sessions of the Committee have been held with the Naya Pakistan Housing Authority and other stakeholders on shaping recommendations for boosting investments in the housing sector and promotion of multiple financing options. It was further informed that the committee report was ready for sharing with the group members to attract constructive feedback.

Dr. Ijaz Nabi shared the committee’s assessment on the Ehsas program, with reference to key areas of concerns, and briefed the participants about various recommendations shaped so far. Participants felt the need for engaging Dr Sania Nishtar in the next meeting to have better understanding on moving forward. Provincial coordination issues were also highlighted which need to be resolved for smooth implementation of matters like tax harmonization.

Advisor to PM on Finance & Revenue shared holistic capture of all the main arguments presented in the meeting. He advised Finance Secretary to organize a meeting of SBP with Shoukat Tarin, Sultan Ali Allana, and Arif Habib, to have an understanding of the bilateral point of view on the features, processes, and allied aspects of Digital Account Scheme, with a view to evolving a consensus on unified practical approach.

Moreover, other proposals of the Committee also need to be deliberated with SBP in the same meeting to have clarity about the way forward.

It was decided that members of Think Tank Group would share feedback on proposals of various committees to synthesize a unified approach. Committee on Housing initiatives was requested to share its report for advance feedback whereas Chairman, Naya Pakistan Housing Authority, and Dr. Sania would also be invited in the next session to evolve a consensus on respective domains.

It was unanimously agreed that Think Tank forum would meet again shortly owing to the urgency for the finalization of work. Advisor Finance shared that recommendations of Think Tank would also be presented before PM soon, so that final directions from the top forum are incorporated into the budgetary process including budget speech.