Caretaker Federal Minister for IT and Telecommunications, Dr. Umar Saif, has raised the hopes of Pakistan’s burgeoning freelancing community by announcing that there’s “good news” on the horizon regarding the availability of PayPal and Stripe payment gateways in the country. These digital payment giants have long been awaited by Pakistanis working in the freelance industry, and the prospect of their arrival has sparked optimism for easier cross-border transactions and financial empowerment.
Overcoming Hurdles for Freelancers by Paving the Way for PayPal and Stripe
Dr. Saif acknowledged the challenges faced by Pakistan’s freelancers, highlighting concerns raised by companies like PayPal and Stripe, including compliance with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) regulations. Despite these hurdles, he expressed confidence in positive developments within the next four to six weeks. This assurance comes as a significant relief to the approximately 1.5 million Pakistani IT freelancers, positioning Pakistan as the second-largest online workforce globally.
Dr. Saif also emphasized the need for a skilled workforce in the IT sector and announced a collaboration with the Higher Education Commission (HEC) to implement standardized testing for IT graduates, followed by mandatory apprenticeships in the IT industry for those who pass. This comprehensive approach aims to bridge the skills gap and empower Pakistan’s IT workforce.
Strengthening the IT Ecosystem
In addition to addressing the imminent arrival of PayPal and Stripe, Dr. Saif emphasized the need to strengthen the country’s IT ecosystem. He shared insights into the E-Rozgar program, which aims to provide interest-free loans to the private sector, establishing co-working spaces for up to 500,000 individuals. With around 19,000 IT companies and employment opportunities for 150,000 people, Pakistan’s IT sector contributes significantly to the economy, with $2.5 billion in official exports.
Moreover, recent changes in the regulatory landscape, including an increase in the permissible retention limit for IT exporters to 50% and simplified fund utilization, are expected to bring additional foreign exchange into Pakistan. Dr. Saif believes that this policy shift will encourage IT companies to repatriate their reserves, potentially boosting IT exports to $3.5-4 billion, and further solidifying Pakistan’s position in the global IT market.