IT industry seeks duty-free status

In Business
April 13, 2024



ISLAMABAD:

Information technology exporters have called for policy interventions in a bid to arrest the decline in IT goods and services exports and have demanded that the IT industry is irrevocably declared tax-free for a decade, notwithstanding any change in the government.

They say that the Ministry of IT and Telecom, Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB), State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) should come up with facilitative and uniform policies, irrespective of their institutional orientation, for creating an enabling environment for growth of the IT industry.

They emphasised that the IT ministry should embark on national-level skills development programmes in artificial intelligence, games development, fintech, digitalisation of governance, blockchain technologies and app development.

Private sector representation was a must in the Special Technology Zones Authority as well as provincial IT boards to enable them to formulate such policies that could deliver on the ground, they said.

Leading IT exporter Noman Ahmad Said pointed out that the State Bank’s data for IT exports in January 2024 was alarming as it displayed a plunge of 12.4% to $265 million on a month-on-month basis as in December 2023 IT exports stood at $303 million.

He stressed “we must accept with an open mind that there are challenges in the IT industry, which are hampering efforts to realise the full potential of IT exports.”

Read PM pushes for IT sector expansion

He called IT exports of $300 million per month a psychological barrier, which would lead to the achievement of Pakistan’s annual IT export goal of $3.5 billion for financial year 2023-24.

Noman Said reiterated his stance that IT was a sector that could help Pakistan improve its socio-economic indicators through stabilising the rupee-dollar parity and reining in the costly dollar’s multiplier effect on inflation on the back of swiftly increasing exports of IT goods and services, which would bring much-needed foreign currency inflows.

“It is pertinent to note that IT is an industry that does not require an incubation period of five to 10 years as is the case in most of the other export-oriented industries of the country.”

The IT expert elaborated the role and scope of the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) for stimulating investments in the IT industry through clearing the red tape hurdles and avoiding policy inconsistency for the next few years.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 13th, 2024.

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