Lahore - Global Home Remittance Head of the National Bank of Pakistan Irtiza Kazmi said on Thursday that remittances send by Pakistanis abroad could be doubled by adopting different strategies, including elimination of Hundi system.

Irtiza said there was a huge potential for growth in the inflow of remittances that can be raised from $20 billion (in 2015-16) to over $40 billion per annum in the coming years. He was speaking at the 5th Corporate Ambassador Awards ceremony.

“In 2015-16, for the first time the remittances increased to $20 billion, showing growth of $2 billion since over $18 billion remittances were received in 2014-15,” he added.

He said that NBP was adopting an innovative approach and technology to attract maximum amount of foreign exchange in the shape of remittances.

He said that NBP was the only bank in Pakistan which had its branchs in rural and far-flung areas, whereas other banks did not have that much presence in the country. “Now the bank is endeavouring to build on its strength of greater reach by motivating overseas Pakistanis to send money to Pakistan through legal channel,” he added. Irtiza Kazmi, an experienced and a thoroughly competent and professional banker, has recently been promoted to the position of Head of the Global Home Remittance of the National Bank of Pakistan.

After his appointment, NBP is taking solid measures to speed up inflow of remittances. The National Bank of Pakistan is one of the top two banks that have attracted the highest amount of remittances in 2015-16.

“Pakistani diaspora remitted around $20 billion during July2015-June 2016 period,” he said, and added, “This crucial avenue of foreign exchange generation is now closely following foreign exchange proceeds through exports, which stood at around $21 billion during the same period.”

“However, there is still a huge amount of money being transacted through illegal channels (hundi/hawala),” he said, adding, “Some estimates suggest this market is at least equal to the formal channel.” He opined that lack of awareness and ill-gotten wealth promoted such illegal businesses.

He said that remittances could be boosted by taking following measures:

By creating a technologically advanced and user friendly Eco system, which, he said, is need of the hour.

He said remitters were usually enticed by the convenience and better rates offered by Hundi/Hawala operators, and most of the time they were totally unaware of the negative effects of such operations. “Illegal money exchange through international jurisdictions fund illegal activities globally,” he noted.

“This fact needs to be disseminated forcefully and openly among the ignorant remitters,” he stressed.

Although the average size of remittance in Pakistan is on the lower side, owing mainly to the bulk being sent back home by blue collared workers having modest salaries, Pakistan is still the 8th largest country in the world in terms of home remittances volume.

“To ensure sustainable growth of home remittances, optimization of technology platform backed by awareness creation was the key,” Irtiza said.

“The govt, through the apex regulator, SBP, has taken various positive measures including PRI (Pakistan Remittance Initiative) to promote home remittance through legal means,” he informed.

However, he said there was still much more that needed to be done. “Promoting home remittances through legal channels is a collective responsibility of both the govt as well as people,” he said, and added, “Pakistan's influential and robust media can play a critical role in highlighting the ills of illegal remittance channels and promoting the benefits of formal/legal means.”