Pakistan is expected to raise $700 million for the national space programme by regulating satellite services in the country.
Sources in the IT and Telecom Division recalled that in 2004 “Paksat Programme - the Way Forward” was unveiled by the Prime Minister’s Secretariat, enshrining parameters for policy frameworks to fill voids in the regulatory and financial aspects.
The national space asset utilisation could have generated around $544 million to date.
The Strategic Plans Division (SPD) prepared a summary for prime minister’s review in March 2019 to address the voids related to sustainability of the National Space Programme (NSP), which was an all-encompassing programme envisaging developments in the field of space and having direct linkages with the strategic programme.
The National Command Authority (NCA), headed by the prime minister, has already approved the NSP. The entire edifice of the space programme is based on reducing reliance on foreign and domestic funding. As such, the revenue-earning satellite services being provided by the Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (Suparco) need to be fully utilised. However, this is not happening at present, primarily due to the unregulated domestic satellite market.
Currently, the total satellite capacity usage in Pakistan is approximately 2,200MHz, out of which 21% is on Pakistani satellites and the rest is on foreign satellites.
In financial terms, a minimum of $35-40 million per year is going out of the country and default on the part of users of Pakistani satellites, in the absence of regulations, has piled up to $22.48 million.
Countries around the world like India, China and Bangladesh have prohibited the use of foreign satellite systems, thereby granting regulatory and financial protection to their own space programmes.
The prime minister had constituted an inter-ministerial committee, chaired by the federal minister for information technology and telecommunication, tasked with coming up with an agreed framework and making recommendations.
The prime minister, after examining recommendations of the committee, directed that the IT ministry, in consultation with the SPD, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and other stakeholders, may develop policy options with clear recommendations and present the same to the federal cabinet along with an analysis of some key points.
Based on recommendations of the committee, the draft policy directive for the provision of satellite services in Pakistan has the potential to raise $600-700 million for the NSP till 2030, besides having indirect benefits related to the advancement of indigenous space technology, the IT ministry told the cabinet.
“This summary was presented to the cabinet which, after discussion, asked for placing it before the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC). The summary has been sent to the economic decision-making body. This is in national interest and in line with similar policies in a number of countries. It will save foreign exchange and help utilise the investment made in the national satellite programme,” said IT Secretary Shoaib Ahmad Siddiqui.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 3rd, 2020.