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Zubair Abbasi and Tahir Amin

Business Recorder

Published Date: Dec 4, 2019

Umar for using technology to tackle economic challenges

Minister for Planning, Development and Reform Asad Umar has described the revenue generation and documentation of economy as massive challenges for the country, saying there is a need to use technology to achieve the ends instead of muscles and might of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) officials.
Speaking at a seminar ‘Sustainable Development in a Digital Society,’ being organized by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), Asad Umar said that businesses in Pakistan are controlled and influenced by those who have access to policy decisions and capital markets whereas those who have best ideas and willing to work hard are not necessarily the ones to become winners. However, he said the advent of digitalization has the potential to break this barrier.
The minister said that promotion of digital economy is extremely important for Pakistan to make the government accountable, increase productivity and more importantly for documentation of the economy and thereby increasing revenue collection.
Umar stated that ultimate solution is digitalization of the economy and officials of the FBR are trying very hard in this regard.
He further said that digital platform allows to break the barrier and people sitting in remote areas can access and avail opportunities worldwide. Umar said that the conference topic is very close to his heart because of diverse aspects and having greater potential for democratization of business in Pakistan.
He said that the government is looking at the efficient delivery of services, and technology obviously has very remarkable role to play. He said that accountability and transparency and making the government accountable would be helpful if measures taken by the government are digitalized and put on open platform. The youth of the country would be able to hold the government accountable in a more meaningful way and more powerfully, he added.
He said that there are so many aspects that promotion of digital economy is extremely important for Pakistan but this would only be successful if 200 million Pakistanis are able to get benefit. He said that Pakistan has taken some good decisions in this regard and one of it is that a part of Universal Service Fund must be utilized to promote information technology in the remote and rural areas. Digital platform allows to break this barrier and those who start business in rural area can form multibillion rupees company, Umar added.
“If people don’t have basic literacy, it is unlikely for them to make full use of the technology," he said, adding there is a need of having coordinated efforts between the federal and provincial governments as well as ministries and collaboration among different ministries and academia as well.
He further said, “For bridging the digital divide, we’ve to go beyond those dealing with technology. We need to have a coordinated approach, not just between the federal & provincial ministries, but private sector, industries & academia should also collaborate."
The minister stressed that the digital economy needs not to be designed for someone but it should also be a success for all the 200 million plus citizens of Pakistan.
Former finance minister Punjab Ayesha Ghaus Pasha said digital technology is the way to go forward to better governance. As compared to other countries in South Asia and in other regions, there is a long way to go for Pakistan for being a digital society, she added. She said that access to internet in Pakistan is 16 percent compared to 81 percent in Malaysia. She said that biometric system in Punjab improved attendance system in government departments. Further digital monitoring of vaccination administration helped a lot. Digitization can help in improving efficiency and resource mobilization, she added.
Former chairman Board of Investment Haroon Sharif said Pakistan should promote cooperation with China in the realm of technology. “We need to look at strategic partnerships to learn from other countries," said Sharif, adding that Pakistan managed to get good ranking in ease of doing business in Pakistan because of use of digital technology.
He further recommended for adopting some kind of technology adaptation measures. Pakistan needs technology partnership with China, he added.
Executive Director of Sustainable Development Policy Institute Abid Qaiyum Sulheri stressed that Pakistan should be prepared to adopt the fourth industrial revolution, which offers both challenges and opportunities to Pakistan.