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ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Aminul Haque on Wednesday opposed the ban on cryptocurrency in the country.

Talking to the media, the minister said that as a policy the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication opposes any such ban, which hinders the development process. With respect to cryptocurrency matters could be discussed but the IT Ministry is not directly involved in it.

The Ministry of Finance, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) are involved in the matter related to cryptocurrency, said the minister, adding that the ministry is ready to provide technical assistance, if it receives clearance from these institutions.

He regretted the increase in advance tax on telecom sector, while saying that it was opposed by him in the cabinet and the parliament. We opposed it at every forum and the MQM had proposed separate amendments, as well. The talks on the matter of withholding tax are under way with the Finance Ministry and the FBR, Haque added.

The minister said that they want to reduce the withholding tax on telecom sector from 15 percent to 10 percent to facilitate the general public.

The cryptocurrency reality & challenge

Responding to another question, the minister said that meetings are being held on a monthly basis on 5G where all stakeholders participate.

The government has targeted to launch 5G in the country by end December 2022 or latest by January 2023. The minister further said that personal data protection bill would be tabled in the cabinet after getting approval from the ECC. The bill has been made business-friendly.

The minister further said that TikTok is ready to set up an office in Pakistan. We wish to take Twitter, Facebook, and PubG, on board. These companies will also open their offices in Pakistan.

The manufacture of smartphones in Pakistan is a revolutionary initiative. We wish that big companies come to Pakistan, said the minister.

Two policy issues including the inconsistence tax regime and opening foreign currency account are major hurdles in promoting information technology sectors exports, said Dr Muhammad Sohail Rajput, Federal Secretary for Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication.

The National Assembly Standing committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication, which met with Ali Khan Jadoon in the chair here on Wednesday, raised the matter that freelancers are facing serious problems in opening foreign currency account.

He also said that opening such accounts by the politicians is even next to impossible.

Secretary admitted that fact while saying that there are two major policy challenges including the inconsistence tax regime and opening foreign currency account, which hurt the IT and Telecom sector badly.

Pakistan has great potential to earn from crypto assets: FPCCI paper

Due to these challenges, huge businesses are being lost. Bringing capital into the country and taking outside the country are major obstacles, he added.

The committee recommended discussing these matters with the SBP and the FBR to find some solutions in this regard.

The committee members raised questions that how India’s IT market is flourishing and how these challenges are being handled. The secretary IT said that India was 20 years ago at the stage where Pakistan is today; however, the country has still the potential to catch it. India built cyber city, technology parks, and free tax zones for such purposes.

Secretary informed the committee that during the severe Covid-19 attack in India, most of the order were missed and converted to Pakistan which resulted in increasing the IT sector exports remittances to grow by 47 percent from $1.4 billion in 2019-20 to $2.1 billion in 2020-21.

The committee recommended that there is a need for steps to dispel the fear and confusion over opening foreign currency account.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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