23 May 2024

ICT is going to be main saviour of economy: Salman    

Published: 22:30, 5 May 2024

ICT is going to be main saviour of economy: Salman    

Salman Fazlur Rahman

Noting that the ICT sector is going to be the main saviour of the country's economy in the future, Prime Minister's Private Industry and Investment Adviser Salman Fazlur Rahman today advocated for 
continuing the various tax facilities policy apart from support that the sector is currently enjoying for further flourish of this sector.

"I'm cent percent agreed with the ICT entrepreneurs that the existing tax facilities should remain. I still think that the sector is still at the premature stage and it won't be wise to withdraw the existing tax facilities that the sector is currently enjoying. Rather, we've to think of giving more incentives, otherwise challenges will come," he said.

Salman was speaking as the chief guest at a roundtable titled "Investment Climate for Smart Bangladesh" held at a city hotel.

State Minister for Posts, Telecommunications and ICT Zunaid Ahmed Palak and Parliamentary Standing Committee Chairman on the same Ministry Kazi Nabil Ahmed spoke as special guests chaired by Venture Capital and Private Equity Association of Bangladesh (VCPEAB) president Shameem Ahsan. The VCPEAB organized the roundtable.

Ferdous Ahmed, MP and Zara Jabeen Mahbub, MP also spoke as guests of honour.

Agreeing with the various demands of the entrepreneurs of the ICT sector, Salman said he would discuss with the Finance Minister and the Prime Minister regarding the various issues surrounding the industry.

Criticizing slightly the National Board of Revenue (NBR) for imposing more burden on the existing regular taxpayers, the Adviser suggested that the revenue board should focus more on bringing in the untaxed people to the tax net.

"Unless the tax collection system is digitalized fully or major reforms are not brought, then the tax to GDP ratio will not increase," he added.

Mentioning that data is going to be the main asset in the coming days, the Adviser urged the relevant stakeholders and entrepreneurs to give more emphasis on AI, data sign, big data management, chip designing, cyber security and establishing a huge data centre.

State Minister for ICT Zunaid Ahmed Palak said that the country's IT and ICT sector witnessed massive successes over the last 15 years under the farsighted vision of Prime Minister's ICT Adviser Sajeeb Wazed Ahmed and courageous leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

He urged the PM's Private Industry and Investment adviser to talk with the Finance Minister and the Prime Minister about the rational demands of continuing tax facilities in the ICT sector.

The State Minister suggested that the higher educational institutions and universities should change their curriculum in line with the changing global context in the ICT sector.

He opined that the existing tax exemption facilities in the ICT sector should continue in the next year while there could be discussions on how to facilitate the sector considering the changing context of FY26, FY31 and FY41.

Palak opined that if the ICT sector receives government's policy support for the next 10 years, then the ICT and the IT enabled services would be the major export-oriented sector in the country.

Kazi Nabil Ahmed, MP said that there is a need to make more energetic and skilled Human Resources to make each and every sector of the country technology-based.

"We've to make a knowledge-based economy to build Smart Bangladesh," he said, adding that the government and the private sector should leapfrog the initiatives in this sector to make the Smart Bangladesh vision visible.

The ICT policies mainly focuses on data protection and cyber security along with ease of doing ICT business by streamlining tax incentives, including 100 percent CIT exemption for the ICT/software industry, 10 percent export 
subsidies, VAT exemption on local bills during production. Additionally, initiatives to attract foreign investment include 100 percent tax exemption for income from software development, 2 percent duty on ICT related hardware 
imports etc.

The ICT industry emphasizes achieving a $50 billion ICT GDP by 2041, which entails increasing the sector's contribution to the National GDP from less than 1 percent to 2-3 percent by 2041.

In his presentation, Shaheem Ahsan said withdrawal of incentives and policy support would directly impact local and foreign investment, worsen unemployment and brain drain situation, put pressure on currency reserve, 
increase risk of data sovereignty and national cyber security and increase the cost of automation towards SMART transition.

DCCI president Ashraf Ahmed, CCCI president Omar Hazzaz, CSE chairman Asif Ibrahim, UGC member Dr Md Sazzad Hossain, FBCCI senior Vice President Md Amin Helaly, Policy Exchange Bangladesh Chairman Dr M Masrur Reaz, Founder and CEO of Bdjobs Ltd Fahim Mashroor, Policy Adviser of CRI Imran Ahmed, Vice President of VCPEAB Mohammad Zahirul Islam spoke, among others, on the occasion.

The leaders in the IT industry also have asked for the tax exemption to be extended for 03 years. They believe keeping this exemption is crucial as removing same will diminish profitability and reduce reinvestment capabilities for IT /ITES companies, resulting in slower industry growth and diminished export potential.