ICT exports require policy attention

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Forex-starved Exports of information and communication technology (ICT) services brought in $2.6 billion for Pakistan during the most recent fiscal year. ICT exports brought in $2.1 billion in the first 10 months of this year, according to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP).

For Pakistan, every dollar is important. ICT exports, which comprise a significant portion of all service exports, are a significant source of foreign exchange earnings. They might increase service exports and aid in closing the services trade imbalance.

In the previous fiscal year, Pakistan’s massive services trade imbalance was $5.4 billion. Despite only exporting $7.1 billion in services, the nation had to pay $12.9 billion for such imports. The services trade gap in the first 10 months of this year remained large at $4.7 billion. The full-year deficit might likely surpass the prior year’s $ 5.4 billion.

Contrary to the goods trade deficit, the difficulty with the services trade imbalance is that it cannot be reduced by limiting imports. Imports of services are generally distinct from imports of products. Only a small portion of all imports are “luxury” services, but the majority of them—particularly ICT services—are essential to both public and private sector businesses’ ability to conduct business domestically as well as to produce goods and services that can be exported.

The only practical way to reduce the services trade deficit is to increase exports of such services. Additionally, despite the nation’s continued economic deterioration, ICT exports can be increased more easily than others within the group of services exports. Let’s talk about the difficulties ICT exporters in Pakistan face and how to overcome them.

We are all aware of how the country’s educational system is failing, therefore this assessment sounds very plausible. Not just export-oriented ICT enterprises but all sectors of the Pakistani economy have long lamented the lack of employable skills among university graduates.

With a few notable exceptions, practically all public and private institutions still choose to ignore this problem and annually produce thousands of graduates who are largely lacking in the technical and soft skills valued by employers.

The SBP study correctly advises inviting top-tier foreign boot camp businesses to open camps across the nation through public-private partnerships. Bootcamps are short, intense, immersive training programmes that typically last three to six months. Several boot camp businesses already exist in the nation, and a few relatively recent entrants claim they have intentions to enhance the technical and soft skills of IT graduates.