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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s information technology (IT) exports could increase to $ 10 billion in the next 10 years and to $ 5 billion by June 2023, Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Syed Amin Ul Haque informed the Senate Tuesday.

Speaking at the question hour at the Senate sitting, the minister said IT exports increased from $ 995 million in fiscal year 2018-19 to $ 1.23 billion in fiscal year 2019-20. He said IT exports saw 40 per cent increase from June 1 to December 31, 2020, in comparison with the same period in the corresponding year. “We are the one and only ministry in Pakistan that achieved 40 per cent increase in exports,” he said.

“Yes, our target is to achieve $ 10 billion IT exports in the next 10 years and we are quite determined to achieve it—our immediate target is to achieve $ 5 billion IT exports mark by June 2023,” he said replying to a question from Jamat-e-Islami’s (JI’s) Mushtaq Ahmed.

On the non-availability of PayPal services in Pakistan, he said problems are being faced to ensure PayPal services in Pakistan due to Financial Action Task Force (FATF) related laws.

“But we are working on it,” the minister said adding that the matter has been taken up with State Bank of Pakistan (SBP). “We are also working on developing a PayPal-like application, and there would be a positive development in the next few months on this front,” Haq said.He said that in May 2020, the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication (MoITT) finalised a policy on mobile phone manufacturing and assembling in Pakistan which was approved by the federal cabinet and Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) while mobile phone manufacturing and assembling would start in Pakistan soon. The MoITT is also working on developing a WhatsApp-like application, he said.

Federal Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan said the government has no plan to privatise or sell off Roosevelt Hotel in New York. “Let it be very clear that neither we are going to sell off that hotel nor do we plan to privatise it,” he said.

Regarding closure of Roosevelt Hotel, he said the hotel had to be closed to stem financial losses. “Not just Roosevelt Hotel but hundreds of other hotels were closed in New York as a result of a presidential order related to Covid- 19,” he said.

The minister said Roosevelt Hotel’s room occupancy reduced from 90 per cent and fell to single digit due to Covid. Moreover, he said, $ 105 million loan obtained from a company, union’s expenses and Roosevelt Hotel’s running expenses were some of the major causes of its closure. He quoted an international report suggesting that aviation industry’s revival was not possible in New York till 2023-24. “In such a situation, we could not afford to bear anymore losses,” he said.

The minister said all liabilities including payment of loans and payment of closure expenses were cleared before the closure of Roosevelt Hotel. The hotel was closed to keep it a “safe property of Pakistan,” he said.

“When things change than Insha’Allah (Allah willing), the hotel would be back in action would full zeal and zest,” Khan said.

The aviation minister said the penalty of $ 5.8 billion imposed on Pakistan by a British Virgin Islands court in Reko Diq case is a “great shock for our dwindling economy.”

The court issued this verdict through ex-party decision on December 10, 2020 and Pakistan International Airlines Investments Limited (PIAIL) moved the British Virgin Island on the seventh of this month, he said adding that next court hearing is on the 28th of this month.

“The property is still with PIAIL—the possession is with PIAIL but the matter is still sub judice,” Khan said. Attorney General of Pakistan Khalid Javed Khan is pursuing this case, he said. “Backdoor diplomacy is underway to reach an out of court settlement. We are very hopeful of a breakthrough in this regard. It is very much hoped that the matter would be settled,” the minister said.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan said the Constitution is silent on the time period within which the members of Council of Islamic Ideology (CCI) are to be appointed after the retirement of incumbent members. Efforts are on to ensure that new members are appointed without any delay once the CCI members retire after completing their three-year tenure this year, he said.

Minister of State for Climate Change Zartaj Gul Wazir said over 185 industrial units are operating in the federal capital. The minister said that major industries in Islamabad are steel furnaces, marble and pharmaceuticals industries which are monitored by federal authorities to ensure compliance on their part with government’s policy regarding environmental standards.

Disposal of industrial waste into nullahs is strictly banned in the federal capital, she said. The House would meet again Friday morning.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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