In an exciting announcement, Caretaker Federal Minister for IT and Telecommunications, Dr. Umar Saif, shared that Pakistan is poised to welcome PayPal and Stripe payment gateways in the coming weeks, marking a significant stride for the nation’s burgeoning freelancing community.
Dr. Saif expressed his optimism during a media briefing, highlighting the pivotal role these services will play in bolstering Pakistan’s freelancing sector.
While acknowledging the challenges related to integrating PayPal and Stripe due to concerns over Financial Action Task Force (FATF) requirements, Dr. Saif remained confident in the progress being made. He confidently stated, “I am optimistic that we will receive positive news regarding PayPal and Stripe within the next four to six weeks, ensuring that our freelancers have access to these services.”
Pakistan boasts a substantial IT freelancing workforce, with approximately 1.5 million Pakistanis actively participating in this sector, ranking the country as the world’s second-largest online workforce.
Dr. Saif emphasized the need for a robust infrastructure to drive the IT sector’s growth. He unveiled the E-Rozgar program, designed to provide interest-free loans to the private sector and establish co-working spaces for up to 500,000 individuals.
Liberalizing Forex Reserves for IT Companies
One major challenge faced by IT companies in Pakistan has been the limitation on repatriating foreign currency earnings. Dr. Saif noted that many IT firms retained their forex reserves and revenues abroad. However, recent initiatives by the IT ministry and the Pakistan Software Houses Association (P@SHA) have allowed companies to retain 50% of their revenue in US dollar accounts. These companies will also receive corporate debit cards to facilitate international transactions.
The State Bank of Pakistan has recently increased the allowable retention limit for IT exporters from 35% to 50% of their export proceeds in the Exporters’ Specialized Foreign Currency Accounts (ESFCAs).
Moreover, the process for utilizing these retained funds has been streamlined, enabling IT exporters to make payments from these accounts without requiring approval from the SBP or banks. These measures are expected to encourage IT exporters to repatriate more foreign exchange into Pakistan.
Advancements in Technology and Cybersecurity
Dr. Saif also disclosed that the auction of 5G spectrum has begun, promising improved connectivity and mobile services for the nation. In collaboration with the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), the government is introducing a cell phone financing scheme, allowing individuals to purchase high-end phones in installments, potentially establishing a thriving high-end phone market in the country.
Lastly, the minister emphasized the government’s unwavering commitment to enhancing cybersecurity and safeguarding against online data theft. Plans are in motion to establish a cybersecurity authority within the next few months.
These developments herald a bright future for Pakistan’s IT sector, offering newfound opportunities for freelancers and businesses alike.