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ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Software Houses Association (P@SHA) urged the government for policy interventions to facilitate the telecom industry by demanding a tax holiday for five years, hassle-free forex retention, five percent cash reward for IT exporters and capacity building through imparting market-driven IT skills for the youth in the broader national interest.

The association has welcomed the unconditional public support extended by the Federal Minister of Information Technology and Telecommunications (MoITT), Syed Aminul Haque, for the IT industry. P@SHA supported the solicitation of facilitative measures from relevant public offices to cooperate with the industry to ensure ease of doing business for IT companies.

Zohaib Khan, Chairman P@SHA said that the MoITT and the PSEB have previously strongly advocated to implement conducive policies for the industry and build an organized tech ecosystem in Pakistan. MoITT has made genuine and concerted efforts to garner support for strategic demands for the industry.

However, while MoITT and PSEB have been supportive to the industry, other relevant stakeholders have failed to provide a similar level of support. In an unprecedented move, the federal minister for IT has condemned the public office for the lack of cooperation and support.

Khan said, “The industry acknowledges the stance of the federal minister for IT regarding the challenges of the IT industry. It is high time that the relevant stakeholders such as the Finance Ministry, FBR, SBP and SECP play their role to facilitate the IT industry. In terms of policy interventions, the industry demands a tax holiday for five years (which was announced till 2025); hassle-free forex retention; five percent cash reward for IT exporters and capacity building through imparting market-driven IT skills for the youth in the broader national interest.”

Khan added that while Pakistan grapples with economic crisis, IT and IT-enabled services are the only industry which can potentially stabilize Pakistan’s economy. To bridge the current account deficit, the industry offers an increase in IT Exports and the inflow of revenue in the form of investments–both of which are critical to Pakistan’s economy, he added.

In the fiscal year 2021-22, the IT and ITeS industry export proceeds were approximately $2.6 billion; and, as far as the services sector is concerned, the IT industry achieved the highest exports and it is the only industry with 77 percent trade surplus.

While Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has given industry the export target of $15 billion, the industry is deprived of the support and cooperation from the government ministries. To achieve the export target, policy incentives have to be introduced and bottlenecks in the ease of doing business have to be removed, he added.

The export growth of the industry and business development would be stimulated by ease of doing business and capacity-building initiatives. The IT industry of Pakistan employs more than 600,000 people in the organized sector and as freelancers.

However, to boost the exports of IT and ITeS industry and Pakistan’s economic growth, policy implementation and continuity must be ensured. Pakistan must manifest itself as a favourable tech destination. Consistent lack of support by the relevant ministries is counterproductive to achieve the export growth objective of the Prime Minister.

“We strongly urge the Prime Minister to assert his rightful leadership and ensure cooperation and synergy across the ministries and relevant departments to ensure economic growth of Pakistan through enablement of the IT and ITeS industry,” Khan added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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