Protecting telecom sectors stakes

In a recent meeting with Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, the local telecom companies CEO’s raised their concerns about various issues regarding taxation ratio, their installations security and provision a fair ground for the auction of 3G licences scheduled by the end of this month. Though the PM had directed relevant authorities to take effective steps through consultations so that the genuine concerns of the telecom companies are addressed effectively, it is yet to be seen how far the government is serious in protecting the telecom sectors stakes. In fact, the telecom sectors concerns stemmed from a number of recent steps on the part of government authorities like the proposal to slap 2 per cent radio tax on cell phone consumers. The government argues the tax to be imposed in order to take the Radio Pakistan out of its economic crunch and improve its performance. This appears to be an unjustified approach as to why should the telecom companies and their consumers bear the brunt of crisis in the Radio Pakistan. The government should revive the state-run radio either by allocating funds from its own pocket or from readjusting its budgetary funds. The repeated attacks on a number of franchised points of telecom companies, the CEO have demanded of the government to extend its cooperation for ensuring effective security of their installations as well as franchised points throughout the country. Such attacks, no doubt, trigger serious concerns of the stakeholders as huge investments are involved on these installations and the government needs to come up with a more serious approach in this regard. At a time when the government of Pakistan is apparently all set to auction the 3G licences this month, the foolproof security of these installations should be amongst the relevant authorities priorities. Giving free hand to these attackers or any inaction by the authorities could no doubt spring a negative message in the air or damage the investments that might come in to the country in case a foreign company buys the 3G licence. While on the other hand the governments 3G licence auction work, particularly the hasty process for appointing a consultancy firm, might give strength to the already bred doubts in the minds of the telecom sector and other stakeholders about the licence auctioning. The telecom industry has emerged as a potent y sector as it is contributing about Rs. 110 billion to the national exchequer as tax and is providing job opportunities to millions of young Pakistanis directly and indirectly in addition to total investment of about $10 billion. At this critical stage, the government needs to have a saner approach so that fresh investments are wooed for this investment-hungry sector.

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