Pakistan seeks higher quota for workers in Saudi Arabia

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ISLAMABAD: Minister for Commerce Pervaiz Malik has requested his Saudi counterpart to increase the quota for Pakistani workers in the construction and services sector in the kingdom.

He said this during the concluding session of the 11th Pakistan-Saudi Arabia Joint Ministerial Commission (JMC) held in Islamabad from Jan 16-17 and co-chaired by Saudi Commerce Minister Dr Majid bin Abdullah Al Qasabi.

Talking about the Saudi government’s ‘Vision 2030’, which is expected to create thousands of new jobs in the construction and services sector, Malik emphasised that Pakistani workers should also be accommodated.

 

“We suggest that the Saudi government may establish a training centre in Pakistan for the training of Pakistani manpower as per requirements of Saudi Arabia,” he added.

During the meeting, the two countries agreed on a number of measures to enhance bilateral trade and cooperation, saying their existing $2.5-billion bilateral trade volume was far below the true potential.

The two sides also discussed a preferential trade agreement (PTA), but no decision was made by the conclusion of the meeting. When asked, the Saudi minister said the proposed PTA was still under review.

Malik said, “Currently, bilateral trade between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia is around $2.5 billion. Given the proximity and deep-rooted friendly relations between the two countries, the existing volume is far below the true potential, which needs to be enhanced by taking concrete measures.

“The measures may include mutual trade fairs and exhibitions, trade diversification to non-traditional areas, B2B meetings and reactivation of Pak-Saudi Business Council,” he added.

The minister said 2.6 million Pakistani workers were playing an important role in Saudi Arabia’s economy. “We hope that this is being duly recognised by the Saudi leadership and expect that Pakistani expatriates will be treated equally,” the minister added.

The Saudi minister said, “We need, and are keen, to identify and explore opportunities in Pakistan. The political will and intention is there. Through dialogue we will overcome obstacles.”

The Saudi delegation comprised 34 officials from 20 government entities as well as the private sector.

The two sides also agreed to expedite negotiations to finalise a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the two countries’ central banks.

The commission decided to reactivate Pak-Saudi Business Council by the first quarter followed by first meeting of the council. Both sides accorded approval to holding exhibitions of new products in each other’s country. First single-country exhibition of Pakistan in Saudi Arabia will be held in the second half of 2018.

It was also decided to sign a bilateral draft agreement for the transfer of convicted prisoners. However, when questioned about the number of Pakistani prisoners in Saudi jails, the minister said the matter was out of his jurisdiction.

Both sides also agreed to share information and expertise in the fields of security, counter-terrorism, organised crime and money laundering.

Pakistan invited Saudi oil and gas companies to set up refineries in the country.

To a question about deferred oil payments, Malik said the matter was not discussed in the meeting. “Saudi Arabia has always been very supportive to Pakistan. We discussed the economic side of trade. Deferred oil payments were not discussed.”

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