ISLAMABAD: Software exports have been rising for the last three years, with documented IT remittances touching $561 million in the last financial year.

Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB) managing director Asim Shahryar told the National Assembly Standing Committee on IT that the undocumented figure is about five times that documented by the State Bank.

“More than $2 billion is parked in banks outside Pakistan by software companies, including those registered with the PSEB,” Mr Shahryar said.

The committee met to assess the PSEB’s performance, and was informed that the IT sector saw a 70pc growth in remittances over the last three years. Mr Shahryar said government support in the form of tax exemptions has been a significant factor in the growth of the IT industry.

However, committee members were disappointed to learn that despite the growth, Pakistan’s IT remittances were far lower than India’s. Mr Shahryar said India’s documented IT remittances stood at $110 billion annually, and undocumented earnings from software sales is estimated at over $20 billion a year. He said Pakistan’s undocumented IT exports are estimated at a little over $2.8 billion.

After the PSEB officials’ briefing, committee members said a lack of marketing strategies to sell Pakistan IT exports was a major reason for low remittances.

“Commercial councillors at Pakistani missions abroad lack the knowledge and expertise needed to highlight Pakistan as an important IT exporter,” said PML-N MNA retired Maj Tahir Iqbal, who asked the PSEB to enhance the capabilities of government officials in the IT field before they are posted abroad.

PSEB told the committee that most software importers do not have faith in Pakistani IT companies. Mr Shahryar said most Pakistani IT firms do not introduce themselves as Pakistani companies, and introduce “foreign clients to their offices based in the Middle East or other countries”.

Mr Iqbal expressed pessimism about the PSEB’s goal to increase IT remittances to $5 billion in the next four years and to over $10 billion by 2025.

“In the last two decades, the PSEB has only been able to reach the half a billion dollars mark when it should already have earned the projected figures by now,” he said. He urged the PSEB to bring young, talented IT experts and companies on board and offer incentives to boost Pakistan’s software export market.

The committee chairman, PML-N MNA retired Capt Mohammad Safdar, formed a subcommittee with Muttahida Qaumi Movement MNA Syed Ali Raza Abidi as its convenor, to hold meetings with the PSEB to assess its progress and assist the board with its concerns.

Published in Dawn, January 11th, 2017