The country’s Interim Federal Minister for IT and Telecommunications, Dr. Umar Saif, has confirmed that online payment platforms PayPal and Stripe will soon be launched in Pakistan. This announcement comes as a positive update for the nation’s burgeoning IT sector, which is home to the world’s second-largest online workforce of 1.5 million freelancers.
Dr. Saif, while addressing a press conference alongside Caretaker Information Minister Murtaza Solangi, emphasized the need for robust financial tools to support the rapidly growing freelancing community in Pakistan.
Despite certain apprehensions, including issues related to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the minister expressed optimism about the imminent arrival of PayPal and Stripe within the next four to six weeks.
The minister also highlighted the challenges faced by the IT sector due to the lack of adequate infrastructure. To address this, he announced the E-Rozgar program, which will provide interest-free loans to the private sector, facilitating the establishment of co-working spaces for half a million people.
Dr. Saif further revealed that Pakistan’s IT sector comprises approximately 19,000 companies, employing around 150,000 individuals and contributing $2.5 billion in official exports. However, he noted that many IT companies store their foreign exchange reserves and earnings abroad due to restrictions on repatriating US dollars.
To alleviate this issue, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) recently increased the allowable retention limit for IT exporters from 35% to 50% of their export earnings in the Exporters’ Specialized Foreign Currency Accounts (ESFCAs).
This move, recommended by the IT industry, aims to stimulate software, IT, and IT-enabled services exporters, as well as freelance services, to enhance export earnings and contribute additional foreign exchange to the country.
In addition to these developments, Dr. Saif announced the initiation of the auction process for the 5G spectrum and the launch of a mobile phone financing program in collaboration with the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA).
He also highlighted the government’s efforts to enhance cybersecurity and protect against online data theft, with plans to announce a cybersecurity authority in the coming months.
Finally, the interim minister underscored the potential of Pakistani IT firms and startups, announcing the upcoming launch of the Pakistan Startup Fund to facilitate global venture capital investments in Pakistani startups.