- If the authorities facilitate us, I can increase the IT industry's size from $2.6 billion to $3.5 billion in a couple of months, says caretaker IT minister
Caretaker Federal Minister for IT & Telecom, and Science & Technology Dr Umar Saif on Thursday said enabling PayPal and stripe payment gateways in Pakistan is a “high priority” for the current setup.
Addressing at the ITCN Asia 2023 ceremony in Karachi on Thursday, the caretaker minister admitted that the government has treated the freelancing community poorly.
“The freelancers cannot easily monetise their skills, there is no PayPal in Pakistan and no stripe payment gateway,” he said. “It should not be hard to convince PayPal for the second-largest online workforce in the world to have access to a payment instrument. Enabling PayPal payment and stripe payment gateways in Pakistan is a very high priority for us,” he said.
The minister said he would meet representatives of the companies (PayPal and stripe).
In February last year, the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication announced that PayPal is not coming to the country on account of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) objection, fearing terror financing.
“The remaining customers in Pakistan are not making a business case for PayPal,” said senior officials of the ministry back then.
However, later that year in October, Pakistan was finally removed from the FATF’s ‘increased monitoring list’, also known as the ‘grey-list’.
Saif said the government would come up with a mechanism, where they could register online freelancers. “We would extend the same tax regime of 0.25% to them,” he said.
Addressing the attendees, Saif said that the IT industry can “fix Pakistan trade imbalance”.
“The Achilles heel of our economy is whenever we decide to export, or increase them, we also have to import a lot of stuff. Our traditional industry including textiles also depends on critical import of raw materials
“Thus, the trade imbalance continues to go into a boom and bust cycle. The solution to this is the promotion of service-based industry,” he said.
Saif said Pakistan’s biggest strength is its large, educated, young and tech-savvy population.
The caretaker minister shared the country’s IT sector has become the second largest online worker marketplace in the world. “Pakistan has close to 400,000 online freelancers, who make between $5-10 everyday,” he said.
He said this includes people representing various skilled workers.
Saif admitted that the authorities have made the life of the IT industry exceptionally difficult. “We keep changing our tax regimes, and made it difficult for them to bring funds in Pakistan.
“The IT industry currently officially stands at $2.6 billion a year. However, I can bet that the IT industry currently stands at $3.5 billion, because they are forced to keep a lot of there revenue outside of Pakistan,” he said, blaming it on policies.
“We must make sure that they bring all money back to Pakistan. We will facilitate them so they are able to spend funds without seeking dozens of approvals from the government,” he said.
The caretaker minister that he would meet officials of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) on Friday.
“We want to start a conversation on how we can have dollar retention accounts, where you can keep all your money in dollars, and spend it internationally using digital payment modes and accrue interest similar to Roshan Digital Accounts (RDA),” he said.
“If the authorities facilitate us, I can increase the IT industry’s size from $2.6 billion to $3.5 billion in a couple of months,” he said.