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ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for IT and Telecommunication Syed Aminul Haque has decided to raise the issues of the IT industry and departmental hurdles with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif soon, in order to find appropriate solutions.

He was talking to a delegation of the Pakistan Software Houses Association (P@SHA) here on Thursday.

The minister vowed to resolve issues of the IT industry, saying that the IT industry has a vital role in the country’s economic growth.

The IT minister said that in light of the prime minister’s directives, both the Ministry of IT and P@SHA will have to effectively work for the promotion of Pakistan’s IT industry. The Ministry of IT will continue supporting the IT industry and P@SHA, he added.

Haque said that the Ministry of IT was fully aware of the issues of the IT industry and departmental hurdles, and very soon the prime minister will be apprised in this regard.

Chairman P@SHA Zohaib Khan said that IT industry will not be able to achieve its targets, including of 15 billion dollar exports, sans cooperation from other relevant departments.

The meeting was also attended by Member IT Syed Junaid Imam, Joint Secretary Aftab Rashid and member of P@SHA Central Executive Committee Khurram Rahat

Zohaib Khan had expressed concerns that despite being fully backed by the prime minister, the IT export growth initiatives are not being supported by the State Bank and the FBR.

He added that the seriousness of the prime minister lies in the fact that he himself is heading the high-level committee on the country's digital economy and has made chairman P@SHA part of it.

Zohaib Khan stated that PM, on P@SHA’s request, had advised the SBP to ensure commercial banks allow 35 percent retention of foreign currency into special foreign currency accounts (FCYs). This facility was made mandatory for the banks to remove any discretion exercised by the banks; however, commercial banks have made the facility mandatory for the companies as well even if companies do not wish to retain forex.

This has created panic in the industry once again about the uncertainty of policy and its implementation. On top of that, the SBP has mentioned a timeline of the facility by March 31, 2023 – which is too short a time period for its implementation and adoption by the banks and exporters, let alone fair assessment and industry trust-building.

He further said that while the prime minister has given the commitment to ensure the implementation of corrective policy measures, there is hardly any compliance by the regulatory authorities. The FBR, for one, has started issuing notices to the IT companies on super tax that too on very short deadlines. The timeline mentioned on the notices are not as per the law and thus, have created uncertainty and anxiety in the tech ecosystem once again.

If the target given by the prime minister has to be achieved, the policy measures recommended by P@SHA and the IT industry must be implemented in true letter and spirit. To boost the exports of the IT and ITeS industry and Pakistan’s economic growth, policy implementation and continuity must be ensured, he added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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