The Express Tribune Editorial 19 February 2021

RDA and rising remittances


The Roshan Digital Account for overseas Pakistanis is indeed one good opportunity that the Covid-19 crisis has brought with it for a country awfully desperate for foreign exchange. Since the launch of the scheme by the SBP in collaboration with major commercial banks in September 10, 2020, as many as 87,833 Pakistanis residing in 97 foreign countries have opened RDAs with deposits amounting to $500 million, averaging $100 million a month, or $25 million a week. That the country has received $243 million though RDAs during the last six weeks — which comes to something around $40.5 million a week — shows the rise in the momentum of the foreign inflows.
No wonder Prime Minister Imran Khan is extremely relieved and has thanked the diaspora through a Twitter message on Tuesday. The PM’s tweet coincided with the central bank announcing that the money remitted by the foreign workforce has remained in excess of $2 billion for the eighth month in a row. The remittances in January 2021, according to the SBP, have been recorded at $2.3 billion, up by 19% year on year. The inflows have, however, slightly decreased as compared to December 2020 when the figure touched $2.4 billion. Overall, the workers’ remittances reached $16.5 billion during the July-January period of the ongoing fiscal year, registering a 24% increase over the same period last year.
Even though the share of RDA deposits, around $100 million a month on an average, in the overall amount of remittances that has been in excess of $2 billion a month is quite low, the scheme has the potential to attract more and more expatriates to remit money both for the purpose of family expenses and investment in bonds, bourse and immovable property. But for that, the government will have to work on concerns that the expat community harbours — ranging from slow processing for account opening and processing to the likelihood of data misuse. The government also needs to advertise the scheme in a proper manner so as to extract its full benefits.



Another mining accident


Four miners have recently been killed and six others injured due to a gas explosion inside a coal mine in Shahrag town in Sibbi district of Balochistan. There were 12 miners working in the mine when the explosion occurred. More workers were still feared trapped inside the mine. Explosions due to gas accumulation are said to be a common occurrence in coal mines in the region. This raises questions about safety issues. Canary birds and other preventive measures are usually provided inside mines to have warning signs of gas accumulation so that workers can exit safely before increasing gas accumulation causes an explosion.
In the present case, the official version says the explosion occurred abruptly. There are a sizable number of coal mines in Balochistan. There are no suitable medical facilities available in mining towns to treat injured miners. Moreover, the mines office has reportedly remained closed for the past several years. The Pakistan Central Labour Federation claims that on an average 200 workers are killed in mining accidents every year in the country. This situation shows the absence of proper safety measures for miners. Those working both inside and outside of mines are vulnerable to accidents that lead to loss of life and limbs. These are occupational hazards though, this does not distract from safety issues.
Last year several workers died in mining accidents in the country. In December 2020, six workers were killed; in February, four miners, three of them brothers, perished when part of a mine collapsed; in May, three workers died in a mining accident; and seven miners were killed in another accident. Mining accidents usually occur due to accumulation of gas and underground water inside mines. Reports from different parts of the world attribute such mishaps to the lack of proper safety measures. Media has to play an important part in highlighting mining accidents but so far it has only been disappointing. Happy are those who work inside secure mines.

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