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ISLAMABAD: The Advisor to the Prime Minister on Commerce and Investment, Abdul Razak Dawood has said Pakistan’s economy has made significant progress reflecting a blend of stabilisation and structural reforms despite, being challenged at economic and geopolitical fronts and is moving on a positive growth trajectory.

He was addressing at the Board of Investment-organised, “Technology Roundtable”, which highlighted investment opportunities in the IT and ITsS sectors.

The advisor said that Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), that use e-Commerce platforms, are around five times more likely to export than those in the traditional economy and the policy aims to pave the way for holistic growth of e-Commerce in the country by creating an enabling environment in which enterprises have equal opportunity to grow steadily.

Razak stressed that the way forward for Pakistan on the economic front is to focus on exports, specifically IT-related exports.

He said that he sees a lot of potential in the young population of Pakistan and encouraged them to dream big for themselves and for their country.

He affirmed that Pakistan has a bright future and is moving towards economic progress.

The Board organised a technology roundtable bringing together policy makers, business communities and potential investors to explore new avenues for enhancing business and investment linkages in Pakistan’s booming IT sector on Friday.

Sustainable economic growth major challenge: Dawood

The ceremony started off with an inaugural session that included welcome address by the Minister of State and Chairman Muhammad Azfar Ahsan, detailed presentation on the IT sector of Pakistan by Secretary BOI Fareena Mazhar, address by Senator Aon Abbas Bappi - SAPM on e-commerce, address by Syed Aminul Haque – Federal Minister for IT and by Abdul Razak Dawood.

The roundtable comprised three more sessions: on e-commerce, connectivity and telecommunications and IT exports and featured some renowned speakers from the industry including MD Daraz.pk, CEO Jazz, CEO Telenor Pakistan, President and Group CEO, PTCL Group, Chairman Infotech Group and others.

Chairman BOI Azfar Ahsan said that the government of Pakistan is making all out efforts to put the economy on the track of long-term and sustainable economic progress.

He shared that the BOI is mandated to promote, encourage and facilitate both local and foreign investment and acts as an interface between international and local investors, public and private sector.

He stressed that the BOI works for enabling business environment through policy and strategic interventions.

Ahsan apprised the participants on “Pakistan Regulatory Modernization Initiative” (PRMI), being led by the BOI that was launched by the prime minister of Pakistan. Once rolled out, it shall transform the regulatory landscape across all tiers of government, he said.

The chairman shared that IT sector policy of Pakistan offers a generous set of incentives such as custom duties and sales tax rebates to local and foreign incentives.

He added that the IT sector also allows up to 100 percent foreign ownership and 100 percent repatriation of profits.

Silk Route Reconnect policy bearing fruit, says Dawood

Ahsan encouraged business leaders to find new approaches to enhance technology-based landscape of Pakistan and make best use of this platform.

The secretary BOI, while highlighting IT sector-specific reforms introduced in Pakistan shared that the payment limit for foreign vendors of digital services has been enhanced by the SBP from USD 100,000 to USD 400,000 and the approval from the SBP for payment above USD 100,000 has been waived off for digital services.

She further added that in order to facilitate IT businesses, 62 globally-recognised companies have been notified requiring no approval from the State Bank and that the State Bank has allowed commercial banks to obtain the Cloud Outsourcing Services to meet their growing customers’ needs.

Fareena said that since 2015, the government of Pakistan has introduced various policies to encourage investment in the country, some of which include telecom policy, digital Pakistan policy, e-commerce policy, national cyber security policy etc.

The secretary expounded that Pakistan produces around 25,000 IT graduates annually and is one of the most popular countries for free-lancing.

With 178 million mobile phone subscribers and 95 million internet users, the country offers vast opportunities in the IT sector.

She informed the audience that more than 3,000 international technology firms are registered with the SECP including Intel, Microsoft, Amazon, Samsung etc and the pace of technology adoption is speeding up.

Elaborating on some incentives introduced for the Special Technology Zones, the secretary BOI mentioned income tax exemption for 10 years including on dividends and capital gains, exemption of custom duties and taxes on capital goods for 10 years, exemption from GST on import of plant, machinery, equipment and raw-materials and exemption from property tax for 10 years.

The technology roundtable was a successful feat in showcasing opportunities in Pakistan’s thriving IT sector and ended with a unanimous vote of re-assurance that all stakeholders will work in close collaboration with the BOI to uplift the development of the IT sector to ensure export-led growth and quality FDI.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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