Where to spend the money


Ghazanfar Ali May 23, 2010

KARACHI: It is common knowledge that the government has development plans but no money to spend on them. However, it is rare that somebody has funds but could not utilise them.

A case in this regard came to light in a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee last week which was told that the Ministry of Information Technology and Communications could put to use only one-third of the funds provided to it for IT-related projects. The Accountant-General of Pakistan Revenue, in a report, highlighted that the IT ministry could not spend Rs965 million out of Rs3 billion allocated for development projects. Among big projects, it had planned to establish three information technology parks in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad in a bid to attract investment but the parks could not be set up.

Over the past many years, everybody has been talking about technological revolution. Our neighbour India has made big strides in technological advancement as it developed its city of Bangalore into its very own version of the US Silicon Valley, which became a hub of IT activities. India is exporting more than $10 billion worth of software and IT-related products a year while Pakistan has exports worth around $1.4 billion.

South Korea has also focused on the IT industry as it is one of the biggest producers of computer chips in the world. As manual systems are being replaced with automated ones all over the world, there seems to be no end to the growing demand of computers, which means a continuous demand for memory chips.

Inviting investors

In a bid to woo local and foreign investors, the IT ministry can arrange a grand exhibition and conference where it can disclose its plans and projects in an attractive manner. But before doing this, other factors like political stability, improved law and order and skilled workforce must be in place. Although the IT ministry and the Pakistan Software Export Board have been making efforts by arranging IT fairs, they may consider visiting India, China and other countries to examine their IT models and invite their experts to assist Pakistan’s IT industry move ahead.

People who have money look for lucrative opportunities and in these times of economic slowdown, particularly in the developed world, investments are mostly pouring into emerging markets, led by China, India and Brazil.

No manufacturing facility

In Pakistan, there are no computer and cell phone manufacturers. Though foreign telecommunication companies’ including Egypt’s Orascom (Mobilink), China Mobile (Zong), UAE’s Etisalat and Warid and Norway’s Telenor have entered the services sector, mobile manufacturers like Nokia and Samsung have stayed away so far.

Incentives and concessions like tax breaks, cheap land, safe and secure environment and simplified regulatory procedures can help attract them. The government has already offered foreign investors 100 per cent ownership of business ventures and full repatriation of profits. In this connection, we cannot forget the example of China, where many big manufacturing houses of the world have outsourced their facilities. The aim is to manufacture products at lower costs by taking advantage of the country’s large workforce and reap the benefits of the huge market in the region.

Talent

There is no denying the fact that the country has no dearth of skilled IT manpower. Many students prefer getting IT education in universities and private institutions. Many go abroad as well to study in foreign universities. What we need to do is to provide them openings and direct their energies towards activities which could be useful to them as well as the country. Launching of IT parks in different cities could attract a sea of IT youth to contribute to the country’s development.

Published in the Express Tribune, May 24th, 2010.

COMMENTS (2)

Nabeel | Create Your First Website | 10 years ago | Reply I don't think we can ever be near India in IT (specially services) as India supports their IT industry vehemently, while our government does not care. One small example: India has both Paypal and Payoneer available to them (which are both the biggest/effective methods of sending and receiving payments online), while we have none of them (Payoneer was available, but not anymore). Freelancers in Pakistan have been waiting since MANY YEARS for Paypal to offer its services in Pakistan, but due to State Bank and our Government's indifference/careless attitude, it is not given any importance. On 4th May, users (freelancers in Pakistan providing services to foreign buyers) of Payoneer Debit Master Card received an email notifying that due to a change in requirements from their regulators, as of June 1, 2010 Payoneer cards will be blocked for transactions in the countries listed by the US government as having strategic Anti Money Laundering (AML) deficiencies. This change will affect card usage in the following countries: Angola, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Turkmenistan and Sao Tome and Principe. This card was used by freelancers all over Pakistan to receive payments for the services they provide in various freelancing websites like freelancer.com, scriptlance.com etc. According to an article by Methtab Haider from The News, the Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Ordinance lapsed on March 26, 2010 as the bill was not passed by the upper house of parliament, which was prorogued recently, shattering all hopes that Islamabad would come out of the list of countries vulnerable to money laundering. Asia Pacific Group on Financial Action Task Force (FATF) had given Pakistan February 2010 as deadline for formal conversion of the ordinance into the Act of Parliament. Now, the FATF is scheduled to meet at Amsterdam in June 2010, and the passage of the Anti-Money Laundering and Combating Terrorist Financing Act from parliament before that could help Pakistan improve its international ranking. I would like to know why is this bill still not passed? I, and every freelancer, will face difficulties in receiving payments after June 1, 2010 if the bill is not passed, as this was the most efficient way of receiving payments. I request the upper house of parliament to pass this bill before June 1, as the National Assembly had already passed the AML bill but the bill could not be passed from the Senate. I also request the Government to look into the matter of Paypal, as it has shown interest in Pakistan, but due to some State Bank/Government rules and regulations, it is still unable to enter Pakistan.
Zunaib M Yousuf | 10 years ago | Reply Totally agree by the author. I myself live abroad and who the hell wants to love in foreign if we get the opportunities in our own country and see the lucrative career a head, I'd be the first one to fly back home for good. Current government or our decision makers need to initiate the projects ad it would take at least 36 months to be established from the day of start and in the mean time lot of talent either living locally or abroad would get ample time to evaluate their future plans as they see the potential in the upcoming future. No doubt India has raised up as an emerging market for the IT industry and Pakistan without wasting the another single moment launch the several mega projects to allure the foreign industries to invest in Pakistan, which would be the source for our government to generate other income in the mode of tax and partnership, as well as solve the log ever issue of unemployment to some extent and also would show the different picture of Pakistan in the global world. InshALLAH this would happen and this must happen ... GOOD LUCK !!
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