ISLAMABAD: Saudi Arabia has agreed to a request by Pakistan for an increased share of the labor force in the multi-billion dollar New Taif City development.
“I asked the Saudi labor minister for a larger quota for Pakistani manpower in the New Taif City project,” said Sayed Zulfikar Bukhari, a special assistant to the prime minister on overseas Pakistanis and human-resource development, during an exclusive interview with Arab News.
“He has agreed and promised to set up a proper mechanism for this. The Saudi labor minister told me that Pakistani manpower will play a big part in the project, and that his leadership also asked for this.”
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have formed working groups to develop procedures for this transfer of manpower, added Bukhari, who will visit the Kingdom in the coming months to finalize the arrangements.
“The working group will first connect the (online recruitment) portals and then we will have numbers to process the manpower,” he said, adding that recent development initiatives undertaken by Saudi Arabia have generated a lot of economic activity and opportunities.
“The New Taif City project aims to build a new airport, develop Okaz City, and establish a technical oasis, residential areas, a university and an industrial city, so they need a lot of skilled manpower because Saudi local manpower is not enough for a megaproject like that.”
Saudi Arabia has launched Musaned, a digital platform designed to improve the recruitment process and ensure that workers’ rights are protected. Once it is connected to Pakistan’s online jobs portal, there will be a steady flow of demand for labor from the Kingdom, Bukhari said.
“Musaned is basically about all domestic workers but (the Saudis) agreed to increase the scope of domestic workers from household helpers to include managers and other skilled labor under the shared portal system,” he added.
Pakistan’s Overseas Ministry is also preparing to link its digital portal with online systems in the UAE to establish a direct connection between its workforce and employers there, Bukhari said. He noted that the flow of labor from Pakistan to the UAE had reduced significantly in recent years, partly due to economic conditions and partly because of a lack of skilled workers.
“We are trying to adopt a mechanism with the UAE that India also adopted to improve their manpower in the Emirates, where they get their interfaces connected,” he said.
Pakistan has canceled more than 65 domestic licenses and blocked 12 companies in the UAE because of dubious visa promotion, said Bukhari. The companies had not fulfilled their commitments, he explained, for example by paying low salaries or not providing proper accommodation. The sharing of online databases will help to enhance protections against the exploitation of overseas workers, he added.
“The biggest thing for me is to stop the exploitation of labor,” said Bukhari. “When a laborer is exploited, he usually ends up indulging in criminal activities.”
Kuwait is also expected to sign a memorandum of understanding with Pakistan for the supply of skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled manpower in a variety of fields including health, education, agriculture and construction.
“I had a fruitful meeting with Kuwait’s minister of state for economic affairs, Maryam Hashem, on the sidelines of the fifth ministerial session of Abu Dubai Dialogue last week, during which we agreed to sign an MoU for the export of Pakistani manpower, both labor and high-end workers such as doctors, engineers, architects and teachers,” Bukhari said.
Kuwait is going through an unprecedented period of development and change, with a focus on building universities, schools and malls, and developing infrastructure.
“Pakistan wants to play a big role in it and I asked the minister to allow us not only to send our labor, but also we want to provide technical assistance,” Bukhari said.
“We are drafting the MoU, which will focus on providing skilled manpower to Kuwait to help in their implementation of Kuwait 2030 (development plan). Pakistan’s interior minister is scheduled to visit Kuwait by the end of November to sort out a few issues related to immigration. Once this is done, I will visit Kuwait to finalize the MoU, so it will be concluded within the next three months.”