ISLAMABAD: The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Deputy Governor Dr. Murtaza Syed, said on Monday that witnessing the success of the Roshan Digital Account (RDA) initiative by Pakistan, many countries were approaching the central bank for guidance. As many as 177,980 Roshan Digital Accounts (RDAs) have been opened by overseas Pakistan from around 171 countries of the world, depositing $1.5 billion funds so far, he said while speaking at a webinar on “Pakistan’s Investment Landscape, Roshan Digital Account, Journey Towards a Naya Pakistan.” “We have created something quite special. In fact, many other countries are reaching out to us, having seen the success of the Roshan Digital Account to try to understand how we went about it; how we implemented various mechanisms that had never been done before,” he said. He said that this idea of digitally onboarding customers that don’t actually live in that particular jurisdiction was not a very easy thing to do; adding that most emerging markets don’t actually have a mechanism like this. He said that the SBP had to put in new regulations to allow this kind of presence-less onboarding of customers and enable overseas Pakistanis to be able to open bank accounts in Pakistan. “This doesn’t exist before and doesn’t exist for many countries,” he added. He was of the view that earlier, the Pakistani diaspora was frustrated for not having proper connectivity to the Pakistani banking system and having control over their funds, adding that last year, when Prime Minister directed for connecting the overseas Pakistanis, the SBP came with the RDA initiative after removing bottlenecks and adopting latest technology. Murtaza Syed said that the amount deposited in RDA was fully repatriable and the account holder could withdraw money back any time he or she wants. He said that customers have already been successfully using this facility. He said that another special feature of RDA was that the account holders do not have any dealings with FBR. Thirdly, he added, the freezing of foreign accounts back in 1998 still haunts people and makes them skeptical. However, he assured that this could not happen again as proper legislation has been done in this regard, so freezing foreign accounts would be illegal. He said that the current scenario was very different from 1998 as the country was moving towards economic stability with current account witnessing surplus during the past 11 months from a deficit of $20 billion, a flexible and stable exchange rate, and reserves of $16 billion (4 years high). He also lauded the government for properly handling the Covid-19 situation and success of Ehsaas programme. He said that the growth rate for the current year (2020-21) is expected at 4 percent and 5 percent in the next year (2021-22). Unlike, in the past, when the growth was consumption-led and import-driven; this time it would be investment and export led growth, he added. Speaking on the occasion, Cousul General of Pakistan at Los Angeles, USA, Abdul Jabbar Memon, said that Diaspora was the most precious asset of the nation. He said that the remittances sent by overseas Pakistanis crossed the $28 dollar mark this year, exceeding the total export proceeds for almost 8 percent of GDP. He said that this was a big achievement, adding that the big part of the increase in remittances could be attributed to enhanced use of formal banking channels on the back of sustained efforts by the government, SBP and foreign missions. Managing Director Deposit Protection Corporation (SBP), Syed Irfan Ali, informed the participants that it takes only 48 hours to open a Roshan Digital Account. In his detailed presentation, he said the overseas Pakistanis cold now execute various banking operations through RDA including payment of utility bills, ATM transactions, e-commerce. He said that the account enables them to invest in stocks, get car loans on markup rates as low as 7%; invest in Naya Pakistan Certificates, buy property and even give charity. He clarified that there would be no tax on depositing amount in RDA and the customers would not have to file returns, however added that there would be 10% withholding tax on profit only. Speaking on the occasion, Chairman ADK Group, Aqeel Karim Dhedhi said that although the government had to take tough decisions, however when suitable time arrived, it took business friendly decisions. He said that the country had now come out of crisis and the economy was in much better condition than it was in 2018. He said that the Roshan digital Account provided a good opportunity to the overseas Pakistanis to invest in various fields of economy including Naya Pakistan Certificates, housing and equity market. He said that the economic figures provided by the government were correct saying that the country had exceeded the growth projections of International Monetary Fund, whereas exports, remittances and large scale manufacturing has witnessed considerable growth and Pakistan rupees was also stable. He said that the existing trend in the LSM indicates revival of economy, adding the government had been focusing on promoting industry and agriculture sector. He said that the housing sector provides a good investment opportunity and it was for the first time in the history that the government announced schemes to facilitate low-income people to build their houses. He was of the view that there would be a demand of around 200 million houses altogether in next 25 years. Director and CEO, Bank Alfalah Limited, Atif Bajwa informed the participants that the digital initiative would further expand adding that RDA facilitate overseas Pakistan to have emotional connect with the home country. He said, the emotional connect has been converted into strong financial connection. Chief Executive Officer AKD Securities Limited, Farid Alam informed the participants about opportunities available in investing the equity market and the incentives provided by the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) in this regard.