Record Gulf remittances bleak comfort for Pakistan

KARACHI, April 21, 2009 (AFP) – Pakistani expatriate workers wired home a record 739.4 million dollars last month, but experts warn job losses from the global credit crunch could soon slash remittances and rock the economy. Pakistanis working overseas sent 5.66 billion dollars home during the first nine months to March 31, 20 percent up on the same period last year, said the central State Bank of Pakistan.

Remittances in March surpassed the previous monthly record of 673.5 million dollars in December 2008 and clocked up a significant increase from expatriates working in the Gulf countries, it added.

Pakistanis in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) sent back 175 million dollars, up from 112 million dollars in March 2008, and 151 million from Saudi Arabia compared to 120 million dollars in the same month last year, it added.

“The increase will certainly help our foreign exchange reserves to grow but we should not be happy,” independent economist A.B. Shahid told AFP.

Pakistan’s economy relies heavily on its roughly four million expatriates — around two million in the Gulf and the rest divided largely between Britain and North America.

Their remittances account for 4.4 percent of Pakistan’s gross domestic