Dr. Umar Saif, Pakistan’s Caretaker Federal Minister for IT and Telecommunications, has revealed an encouraging update about the imminent availability of PayPal and Stripe payment gateways in the country in the upcoming weeks.
Dr. Saif’s Optimism Shines in Efforts to Support Pakistan’s Thriving Freelance Community
In a recent press briefing, Dr. Saif conveyed his optimism, underscoring the significance of financial services like PayPal and Stripe for Pakistan’s flourishing freelance workforce.
Unlocking New Avenues for Freelancers
While acknowledging the hurdles, particularly those concerning compliance with Financial Action Task Force (FATF) requirements, Dr. Saif remained hopeful about the ongoing efforts. He shared his confidence, stating, “I believe that within the next four to six weeks, we will have positive developments regarding PayPal and Stripe, and we are committed to making these services available to our freelancers through any viable means.”
Pakistan boasts a robust IT freelance community, with approximately 1.5 million individuals actively engaged in this sector, making it the second-largest online workforce globally.
Elevating the IT Landscape
Dr. Saif stressed the necessity of a strong infrastructure to bolster the growth of the IT sector. He unveiled the E-Rozgar program, designed to provide interest-free loans to the private sector, alongside plans to establish co-working spaces catering to 500,000 individuals.
Pakistan’s IT sector encompasses around 19,000 companies, employing 150,000 professionals and contributing approximately $2.5 billion in official exports.
Liberating Foreign Exchange Reserves for IT Firms
A notable challenge faced by IT companies in Pakistan has been the constraint on repatriating foreign currency earnings. Dr. Saif pointed out that many IT firms held their foreign exchange reserves and revenues abroad. However, recent initiatives by the IT ministry and the Pakistan Software Houses Association (P@SHA) have permitted companies to retain 50% of their revenue in US dollar accounts, along with providing corporate debit cards for international transactions.
The State Bank of Pakistan has recently raised the permissible retention limit for IT exporters from 35% to 50% of their export proceeds in the Exporters’ Specialized Foreign Currency Accounts (ESFCAs). Additionally, the utilization of these retained funds has been streamlined, allowing IT exporters to make payments from these accounts without requiring approval from the SBP or banks. These measures are expected to incentivize IT exporters to bring more foreign exchange into Pakistan.
Advancements in Technology and Cybersecurity
Furthermore, Dr. Saif disclosed that the auction of 5G spectrum has commenced, 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 that will enable individuals to purchase high-end phones in installments, potentially establishing a high-end phone market in the country.
Finally, the minister reiterated the government’s dedication to enhancing cybersecurity and safeguarding against online data breaches, with plans to establish a cybersecurity authority in the near future.
These developments paint a promising picture for Pakistan’s IT sector, offering new opportunities for freelancers and businesses alike.