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ISLAMABAD: The telecom sector seeks urgent policy interventions from the government to provide critically-needed fiscal space to ensure its survival including denominating spectrum payments in rupees and extending the payment terms to 10 years instead of five, suspension of industry’s annual contribution to the Universal Service Fund (USF) and Ignite for two years and reduction in withholding tax from 15 percent to eight percent on essential telecom services.

These proposals were conveyed to the Federal Minister for IT and Telecommunication, Syed Aminul Haque, who chaired a meeting which was attended among others by Aamir Ibrahim, the CEO Jazz, Irfan Wahab Khan, the CEO Telenor and Hatem Bamatraf of Ufone, Thursday.

Heads of the telecom companies apprised the Federal Minister for IT about different issues of the telecom industry. They also offered thanks to IT Minister Haque for his strong cooperation with the telecom industry.

The CEOs of telecom companies reiterated that a healthy and stable telecom sector, the foundation of a country’s digital ecosystem, fuels virtually all sectors of the economy and is a prerequisite for consistent improvement in service quality for users. However, the telecom industry’s financial health is severely impacted due to an unprecedented rise in the cost of operations: primarily fuel, electricity, interest rates, constantly increasing USD pegged spectrum instalments, and most recently severe damages caused to critical digital infrastructure by floods to the extent that now it threatens the very survival of telecom sector.

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Aimed at partially mitigating the “digital emergency”, the telecom sector seeks urgent policy interventions from the government to provide critically needed fiscal space to ensure its survival and support Pakistan’s digital inclusion objectives. This includes denominating spectrum payments in rupees and extending the payment terms to 10 years instead of five; Suspension of industry’s annual contribution to the Universal Service Fund and Ignite for two years; and reduction in withholding tax from 15 percent to eight percent on essential telecom services.

Haque said that he is well aware of the departmental issues confronted by the country’s telecom industry, and struggling to settle these issues to stabilise investment in the IT and telecom sector.

Addressing the meeting, Federal Minister for IT and Telecom Haque said that efforts were on to resolve the issues of the telecom industry as the economic stability of the country was linked to the uplift of the telecom industry. He said we are determined to remove all bottlenecks at the departmental level inorder to promote investment in the IT and telecom sector of Pakistan. He noted that the improvement in connectivity is linked to the telecom industry.

Additional Secretary (Incharge) Ministry of IT and Telecom Mohsin Mushtaq and senior officers of the ministry were also present in the meeting.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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