The Pakistani government will send 200,000 skilled and semi-skilled workers to Qatar in the coming four years ahead of FIFA World Cup 2022 for the construction of infrastructure, stadiums, city rail, hotels and other construction projects for Dubai Expo, Pakistan Today has learnt.
Provincial Minister Labour and Human Resource Raja Ashfaq Sarwar said that two committees had been constituted by the government to identify the professional skills demanded by Qatar and Dubai.
“These committees will provide identity cards, passport, visas, security clearance and vaccinations to the skilled and semi-skilled workers who will be going abroad. A special cell has also been established in the office of the labour secretary for the provision of 200,000 skilled workforce from Pakistan,” said Sarwar.
The minister said that in his recent tour to Qatar in May, 2015 he assured the Qatari government that Pakistan will introduce a new concept of skilled workforce under its one window operation that is providing the blue collar workforce with good standards of vocational trainings, security verifications, vaccination, awareness on industrial safety, basic English language and most importantly eliminating fake and visa exploiter companies and non-accredited labour export agents.
“Government in collaboration with private sector will train these skilled and semi-skilled workers who will bring foreign exchange of more than 60 billion rupees annually to Pakistan that will also raise the standard of living of their families,” said Sarwar.
The first batch of skilled workers will leave Pakistan by the end of July, 2015, said the minister, adding that all the arrangements have been made for training the workers at the vocational training institutes of the government situated in Gujranwala, Sheikhupura and Lahore.
Renowned Economist Dr Qais Aslam told Pakistan Today that it is a great move by the government which would release the pressure from the government for providing opportunities to the workforce in Pakistan.
“These 200,000 workers will get jobs in Qatar and whatever they earn in Qatar will come as foreign remittances to the country which will increase the foreign reserves of the country,” said Dr Aslam.
He added that once the fully trained workforce will return to Pakistan after completing the assignments in Qatar they could be engaged in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. “It will bring a new era of Qatar-Pakistan relationship,” said Dr Aslam.
He added that China – Pakistan Economic Corridor would give China an economic outlet to the Persian Gulf, Asia, Africa, The Far East, Australia Europe and America, especially USA & North America through the warm waters of the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Rim.
“This corridor would also link China to Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia, Russia and Europe through the land route The Economic Corridor gives businesses in Pakistan and China a cost advantage under gravity approach as it shortens the distance between exporting and importing nations,” said Dr Aslam, adding that this new investment in Infrastructure and energy should create jobs and business for many related industries in Pakistan.
“This link also should induce regional SME’s in Pakistan to take advantage and create clusters that can enhance income generating capabilities of people of the region and areas that would be directly linked to this corridor,” he said.
Dr Aslam opined that many new avenues and opportunities should arise especially for international truckers and drivers (TIR) etc. This corridor would also give access to EU, USA and other foreign business to invest in mineral rich Baluchistan and the KPK as well for their firms to invest in tourism in these areas. This corridor should increase the peace dividends over war dividends and therefore create more regional stability and peace.
“But my fears are that the uneducated and unskilled Pakistani’s would be left behind, if our federal and regional governments and business managers do not prepare the capacity of our people for this change and opportunity,” he said adding that also if the contracts to the Pakistani businesses and stake holders would not be given transparently and regional economic preferences would not be considered as well as issues of bad governance would not be addressed as in past cases of Pakistan’s economic performances and international commitments than the entire gains of this opportunity would go to China and the rest of the world and Pakistan would remain the Elitist state that it has shown to have become in the past 63 years where the rich and powerful are misappropriating the resources and economic advantages in their favor leaving the poor and the marginalized people of Pakistan backward, deprived and in poverty than all the opportunities from this Pakistan-China Partnership would be lost for Pakistani masses, he added.
Talking to Pakistan Today, political economist Mobeen Ahmed Chughtai said that remittances have always been a pillar of the Pakistan economy. Qatar is also not known to be a bad paymaster-however, working and living conditions of foreign labour in Qatar have always been a controversial subject. “There is no doubt that sending workers to Qatar will result in substantial cash flow into the country that will help bolster the Pakistani economy in these troubled times,” he added.
According to amnesty International report, under the spotlight of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, on 14 May 2014, the Qatar government promised reforms to address the widespread exploitation of migrant workers in the country, yet a year on none of the proposed reforms have been implemented. Only immediate steps by the Qatari authorities and key stakeholders such as FIFA can begin to address migrant labour abuse in Qatar.