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Published Date: Jul 2, 2020

Experts from public &private sector term facilitation as a key to boost e-commerce in Pakistan

Islamabad: (July 01, 2020) E-commerce offers huge scope and potential for Pakistani markets. However, the right policy reforms and facilitations by the government could play a key role in tapping the real potential of this crucial component of the business and trade. The representatives from public & private sector and civil society organizations said this while sharing their views with the participants at online dialogue ‘E-commerce-the scope and facilitation’ organized by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) here.
Ms Hussan Bano Burki, Chief of Party at USAID supported Pakistan Regional Economic Integration Activity (PREIA), on the occasion said that timely implementation of e-commerce policy could enable Pakistani market to get benefitted from the opportunities in the digital space that is available to local and foreign firms.
Ms Burki said that we need to strengthen the spirit of public private dialogue to reach at the better understanding of diverse perspectives and to have a shared vision for e-commerce reforms that are required.
Dr Vaqar Ahmed, Joint Executive Director, SDPI, was of view that E-commerce industry in Pakistan has witnessed over 90% growth during year 2019. However, total sales in this sector remain low compared to other contemporary economies. He said that some experts are suggesting that Covid19 has presented an opportunity for e-commerce enterprises provided the government policy facilitates Pakistan e-commerce sector.
He added further that people still have confidence and trust issues in making online payments. He said that a complex tax regime is a barrier to the growth of the sector and new firms to venture in it. Currently, all provinces have a different GST regime which is giving rise to multiple layers of taxation and thus, hurt the tax payer, he added.
Aisha Moriani, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Commerce (MoC), informed the participants that e-commerce policy has been approved by the Cabinet and the ministry was now working with e-commerce industry stakeholders for timely implementation of newly approved e-commerce policy.
She said that this policy is aimed at bringing the cost of doing business down for e-commerce firms. She added further said that e-commerce initiatives will help exporting enterprise to better connect with rest of the world through online marketing and financial channels.
Gonzalo Valera, Senior Economist at World Bank, on the occasion said that World Bank is keen to help Ministry of Commerce with e-commerce reforms. Pakistan has one of the lowest internet penetrations which is not allowing achievement of potential e-commerce gains, he observed.
Afnan Khan from Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) informed the participants that FBR is making efforts to expedite the implementation of Pakistan National Single Window which is a commitment under International Trade Facilitation Agreement. FBR is expecting that an initial version of National Single Window will be launched by December 2020, he said.

Asfandyar Farrukhi, Managing Director, HUB Leather, was of view that changes in tax code take place very frequently. Therefore, he said, we need to make digital payments cheaper. Zeeshan Shahid, CEO of TIE Pakistan said that we need to incentivize formal and informal retailers to come online.
Pervez Iftikhar, Member of Prime Minister Taskforce on IT Sector, said that taxes on the use of internet are unfair and any tax levied on the online or web-based activity should be in line with peer economies.
Aamir Ibrahim, CEO JAAZ, Badar Khushnood from Pakistan Software House Association, Syed Junaid Imam, CEO, IGNITE, Ministry of IT and Telecom, Iftikhar Qutab, Advisor, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Revenue Authority and Mona Mahfooz from Sindh Revenue Board also highlighted the diverse aspects of the challenges and opportunities for e-commerce in Pakistan.