IRSHAD SALIM (Islamabad) — The Supreme Court and the Prime Minister of Pakistan have joined hands to raise funds for building two dams in the country on war-footings. Water crisis has taken an almost emergency-like situation, and power issue is undermining socio-economic growth despite progress made so far. Since dams–though takes longer to build–creates massive reservoirs for storing water and at the same time produce cheapest source of energy–other benefits notwithstanding.
The dam funding campaign may not be able to generate all of the $14 billion needed, but the campaign has done two things: galvanized the nation, raised dignity and added sense of the crisis the population will be facing in years to come. Secondly, it has invoked owning the idea thing and a sense of responsibility among Pakistanis and overseas Pakistanis who earn substantially more in terms of dollars than their compatriots back home.
If every overseas Pakistani in the West can donate $1000 (and take a tax writeoff), its possible enough funds could be generated as seed money to attract lower-risk related funding, loans, and investments from the traditional players.
According to an estimate, some 600,000 Pakistanis live in the US (undocumented ones not counting) and make on average $74,000 per annum. They have been remitting back home on a yearly average $4,166 per person–but not tax deductible–,they are expected to send more in coming months if the trend continues. By sending $1000 additional and taking 100 percent tax writeoff against this additional amount, would become a win-win for all.
Imagine 600,000 x $1000 = $600 millions just from the US if sent in 2019. Multiply this figure by 5 times, as such expats in the West total approx. 4 million. It translates into a whopping (7 times) figure of $4.2 billion next year and could continue.
On a a 50/50 probability base, the expected value of this effort could be worth $2 billion. As an optimist, I would look into it and do due diligence at least.
A few in the US have asked me on WhatsApp if that’s possible. I think so, it could be, for them it would be the quickest, surest, the best, transparent and legitimate taxwriteoff way to donate. First would be to establish the “Pak-Americans For Clean Energy” with global vision (not just Pakistan-specific), as a 501(c)(3) organization under IRS rules.
Three well-respected Pakistani Americans who meet all US government rules and criterias can establish such a private platform—it normally takes 3 to 4 months based on my own experience doing the paperwork as a consultant hired to establish one such platform back in 2008/2009.
One of the first project this outfit can propose is funding the two dams in Pakistan—as it in my opinion it could meet all the criteria.
In addition to $1000 the said organization could accept from US-Pakistanis not one time but every year with tax writeoff, it could also tap into other donor organizations seeking to dole out grants and funds for such activities.
An existing organization called the Organization for Pakistani Entrepreneurs in North America (OPEN) could also be roped in to facilitate the effort given their clout in Washington–they are Islamabad based also I’m told. Another is the Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America (APPNA), and many other Pakistan-specific non-profit organizations formed under IRS’ 501(c)(3) rules may also be willing to do so provided the need is articulated in right form and substance. Back home, the Dams Fund by the SC/PM may have to be registered as a not-for-profit platform subject to legalities. Even the Overseas Pakistanis Foundation (OPF) could be the local recipient if it is a non-profit. If not, another non-profit organization can be established.
Assuming all the i’s are dotted and t’s are slashed, the idea could open doors for a massive receipt of funds from such regions where all the foregoing enabling and facilitation (tax-writeoffs, grants, etc.) ecosystem already exists. I’m sure many may already be aware of all this, but my intent to highlight it here was to nudge them, prod them to move. Do something out of the box. This could be a start just as the Dam Fund is a start.
PS: As for Pakistanis in the Middle East, they could purchase the “Dams Bond”—another (starting) way for the new government to attract overseas Pakistanis investment potentials.
(The author is a business & construction consultant, analyst, and Editor-in-Chief of PKonweb and DesPardes presently based in Islamabad).