Dhaka, Bangladesh
Budgetary stimulus sought for faster expansion

Upcoming digital economy

Budgetary stimulus sought for faster expansion

Mazharul Islam World economy is switching fast to digital mode, generating quality jobs on a larger scale, but Bangladesh has yet to catch up with the pace. Trade bodies in this sector seek budgetary stimulus for potential growth. According to international press reports, the flourishing of digital economy is giving a nudge to sagging economic growth in the western world and generating high-end jobs. The jobless rates are on a downturn in the developed countries as the knowledge economy is opening up employment opportunities. The Economist forecasts continuous growth in plum jobs in the tech-based economies until future saturation. Equipping employable people with technological education and training and retraining is suggested. Coding system is the key to running the faster-growing digital economy as sophisticated machines are dominating production system. Academic systems are being recast, with coding arithmetic at its core. In this context, experts suggest, Bangladesh has much to do for the switchover. Educating students along that line, training and retraining workers, building up infrastructural foundations, and helping grow huge startups are among the dos of the time. As the government is going to place the new national budget in parliament tomorrow, entrepreneurs in this field are seeking budgetary incentives for giving a much-needed fillip to this fledging economic sector. Budgetary stimulus sought From Page 1 Col. 3 Five trade bodies on IT and IT-enabled services have placed a combined budget proposal to the government for consolidating the sector through faster digitisation. "Our main target is to speed up the digitisation process and avoid repetitions in the budget proposal," said Syed Almas Kabir, president of the Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services. The four other trade bodies in the lineup are the e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh (e-CAB), the Internet Service Providers Association of Bangladesh (ISPAB), the Bangladesh Computer Samity (BCS), and the Bangladesh Association of Call Centre and Outsourcing (BACCO). The trade bodies have placed some specific demands like imposing restrictions on foreign e-commerce companies and digital service providers, accepting digital payments for all public transactions and promotion of local software. They also call for imposing high tax on e-commerce companies who save their customers' data abroad with a view to helping the local data-centre market to grow. ISPAB would push for declaring fixed broadband business as an IT-enabled service with a view to getting tax holiday. "This would reduce our cost of doing business," said MA Hakim, president of ISPAB. The trade bodies also disapprove of the ICT minister's proposal to introduce taxes on computer imports in order to promote local assembling. "The government wants to make internet flourish in the remotest parts of the country but, at the same time, it is imposing tax on computer and other device imports. This is contradictory," said another leader. In fact, the trade bodies want the tax waiver on computer imports to be extended by another five years. "Otherwise, the prices of computers will rise, which would be a setback for the industry," Kabir said. BACCO pointed out that there is no tax on import of equipment related to call centres and outsourcing services, but if bought from local sources, there is a high tax being levied. "This tax should be withdrawn," said BACCO President Wahidur Rahman Sharif, as the government is going to make taxation readjustments in the new budget. The trade bodies also seek dislocation allowance to encourage the employees of IT companies to shift to high-tech parks which are located in remote areas. BASIS in its proposals requested the revenue board to issue tax-exemption certificates for a period of five years. "BASIS will provide endorsement letter every year regarding whether the company is functioning or not," he proposed. Mushfiqur said Bangladesh's ICT (Information and Communication Technology) sector has demonstrated immense growth, with new services being added every day. BASIS representatives requested the NBR to add new services, including systems integration, platform as a service and cloud service, software as a service, IT training, Annual Software Maintenance Contacts (AMC), information systems and information technology, and CIS, ID assessment and audit services, to the definition of ITES. The ICT lobby also requested the board to introduce a new HS Code for software import through e-delivery system. Other proposals made by the association include smoothly regulating digital marketing-payment systems, banking, and payment channels, the process of which has been proposed in BASIS's Digital Marketing Payment Proposal. --

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