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Dollar liquidity crunch: IT sector seeks review of ban on direct carrier billing

By Our Correspondent
November 19, 2022

ISLAMABAD: After the State Bank of Pakistan’s decision to revoke Direct Carrier Billing (DCB) for cellular mobile operators (CMOs) for making payments abroad in dollars to vendors and different paid Apps, the Ministry of Information Technology & Telecommunication, as well as other stakeholders, have decided to write a joint letter to the Ministry of Finance and SBP by next week.

“We have decided to write a joint letter to the Ministry of Finance and SBP for reversing this decision as it will make the lives of thousands of freelancers miserable as they will be unable to earn billions of dollars in case paid up Apps stopped providing their services in Pakistan,” top official sources warned while talking to The News here on Friday. After all the CMOs unanimously raised a red flag during their meeting with Minister for IT Aminul Haque on Thursday, the Ministry of IT & Telecom held an important meeting in which the chairman PTA and representatives of CMOs participated. In the meeting, the participants held a detailed discussion and constituted a committee to finalise the exact numbers involved after the withdrawal of authorization of the DCB mechanism. It has been estimated that millions of dollars were being paid as payment requirements and in return, the country received services from different paid Apps such as Google and others allowing freelancers to earn billions of dollars in IT export receipts.

One top official told this scribe that the Ministry of IT & Telecom, PTA, and other CMOs would gather the required information and would write a joint letter to the Ministry of Finance and SBP for sensitising about this important issue because it could cause harm to thousands of freelancers if the SBP did not reverse its decision on immediate basis.

“We are all set to share our numbers with the Ministry of Finance and SBP till coming Tuesday,” said one official who participated in Friday’s meeting for devising a strategy to convince the SBP to withdraw its decision. The SBP revoked the DCB mechanism keeping in view the severe dollar liquidity crunch being faced by the country as the foreign currency reserves held by the SBP reduced to $7.9 billion on November 11, 2022, despite the revival of the IMF program and securing ADB and AIIB loans.

The telecom operators have jointly conveyed to the government that if this step lingered then the country would move from the dream of digital Pakistan to the dark stone ages. It was their viewpoint that the increased taxes burden and escalated cost of doing business might force them to close down businesses in the country.