Telecommunications sector: the ministry raises the issue of WHT with the finance division, FBR

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunications has taken up the issue of withholding tax on the telecommunications sector with the Finance Division and the Federal Revenue Board (FBR), Minister Syed Aminul Haque said Federal Information Technologies (IT) and Telecommunications.

“We (IT Department) support the telecom industry on all outstanding issues, including WHT, and hope to resolve the issues at the earliest,” Haque said at the launch event. “GSMA Smartphone for All” organized by Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA) & Kistpay in collaboration with the Ministry of Information Technology (IT) and Telecommunications, here on Wednesday. He said the next round of talks on these issues would be held next week.

Launched GSMA Smartphone 4 All initiative to make affordable smartphone ownership easier for low- and middle-income consumers

Haque said, “Today the Ministry of IT and Telecommunications has taken another concrete step towards realizing the vision of Digital Pakistan. With our “Smartphone for all” initiative, we aim to improve the purchasing capacity of marginalized people through installment financing instruments and seek to encourage the digital inclusion of young people, women and rural communities through the adoption early smartphones.

He added that improving access to smartphones is a key priority so that everyone in Pakistan can participate in the digital economy and the socio-economic benefits of increased smartphone penetration can be realized.

The telecommunications sector seeks much-needed fiscal space

The minister said that Google has finally decided to open its office in Pakistan and has been registered with the SECP. A Google delegation will visit Pakistan in the 2nd week of December this year while TikTok was also planning to open an office in Pakistan and Facebook authorities are in contact for the same.

Under this initiative, Kistpay enables Shariah-compliant smartphone financing on leading smartphone brands with plans ranging from three to 12 months with the fastest application approval process. Customers can avail the funding facility through the retail network, telecom partners, Kistpay website and through the Kistpay WhatsApp channel. The smartphones will be available via Kistpay in a price range of Rs10,000 to Rs100,000.

Julian Gorman, Head of Asia-Pacific (APAC), GSMA, said: “A connected population is the basic ingredient of a digital nation from which flow digital economic growth, industry and empowered entrepreneurs. and improved livelihoods for every citizen.

We must embrace the imperative of enabling every person to have a smartphone and applaud the Ministry of IT and Telecommunications and Kistpay for their bold commitment to smartphones for all of Pakistan.

Major General Amir Azeem Bajwa (Retired), Chairman of the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA), has admitted that Pakistan’s telecommunications sector is the highest taxed sector in the region while it has the lowest ARPU of less than a dollar. However, relevant circles are aware of the situation, he added.

He praised the efforts of Kistpay and the GSMA to close the smartphone affordability gap as a major barrier to mobile internet adoption. He added that better access to smartphones will increase access to information, which will create micro-entrepreneurs and reduce poverty.

“In order to facilitate the transition to mobile broadband for an additional 50 million people over the next three years, Asif Aziz, CCO Jazz suggested that the government should halt the import and local production of 2G phones, prioritize to the local assembly of 4G-enabled smartphones, develop and implement regulatory coverage allowing telecommunications companies to offer smartphones in installments and reduce withholding tax on essential telecommunications services from 15% to 8% This will help boost digital adoption and unlock huge socio-economic opportunities for the masses.

Syed Asif Jafri, CEO of Kistpay, highlighted the difficulties faced by the majority of Pakistanis in accessing both smartphones and Sharia-compliant finance. Asif Jafri added, “Kistpay will empower millions of disconnected users with digital and financial inclusion so they can enjoy the benefits of a digitally connected life.”

Major smartphone brands and startups such as Nokia, Xiaomi, Sehat Kahani, JazzCash, Chickoo, to name a few, attended the tech expo and showcased their products and services, all of which aimed to create a digitally connected Pakistan. Attendees at the event showed great interest in these products and services, and this paved the way for future partnerships. The expo was followed by panel discussions on mobile phone accessibility with leading industry experts including Irfan Wahab Khan, CEO of Telenor, Hatem Bamatraf, Chairman and CEO of PTCL Group, Jeanette Whyte, Policy Officer Public, APAC, GSMA, Asif Aziz, Director Commercial Officer (CCO) Jazz and Asadullah Khan Niazi, Head of Oversight and Strategy, Universal Service Fund (USF) discussed challenges, opportunities and responsibilities from different sectors of the economy and suggested the way forward to increase smartphone affordability, digital connectivity and expand e-commerce in Pakistan.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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