ISLAMABAD: Both the Ministry of Information Technology (MoIT) and the Board of Investment (BoI) have conveyed their concerns to the government that the Special Technology Zone Authority (STZA) was disturbing investments and interfering in their functions.

The MoIT and BoI have lodged different complaints with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif stating that the STZA was interfering in their domain and confusing investors by offering different incentives for the same service.

Sources in the MoIT confirmed that Minister for Information Technology Syed Aminul Haq directly told the prime minister that the STZA was offering incentives to the existing players in the IT and telecom field, and for the same business.

“The IT ministry took several years to develop base for the freelancers and implement a comprehensive mobile sets manufacturing policy,” said a senior official of the MoIT. “But since its establishment around eight months back the STZA has been inviting the IT experts and manufacturing units etc in their zones offering higher incentives – but this leads to confusion as a result nobody is a gainer.”

Responding to a question, Aminul Haq acknowledged that he had some concerns and said duplication of functions had to be avoided at all levels.

Similarly, the BoI too had forwarded a request to PM Sharif stating that harmonisation of the STZA law and BoI function was essential.

“The investment promotion agency of the country was BoI, but out of its 22 functions 18 were in the STZA law too,” said a senior official of the BoI, adding: “The issue is when foreign investors arrive and investment opportunities are offered in economic zones etc the STZA offer higher incentives to same investors and it has happened several times in the past few months.”

The prime minister has directed the complaints to Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal for addressing the issue. The minister recently held a meeting with the BoI and STZA and directed them to remove all bottlenecks and develop synergy amongst themselves to attract investments.

The minister said that there was a need to develop synergy between the BoI and STAZ to attract more investors in the country.

The meeting, attended by STZA CEO Amer Hashmi, BoI Additional Secretary Khashihur Rehman, the executive director and other officials, noted that the STZA came into existence in October 2021 under an Act of Parliament and was being operated under the Cabinet Division.

The key objective of STZA is to boost Pakistan’s Knowledge Economy through the development of a technology ecosystem by leveraging the Triple Helix Model of Innovation. “There should be clarity on existing laws between STZA and Special Industrial Economic Zones SIEZs,” Ahsan Iqbal said.

Published in Dawn, July 13th, 2022

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