Published at: The Daily Star, February 11, 2019
Five trade bodies on IT and IT-enabled services have decided to place a combined budget proposal to the government with the view to consolidating the sector for faster digitalisation.
“Our main target is to speed up the digitalisation process and avoid repetitions in the budget proposal,” said Syed Almas Kabir, president of the Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services, after a meeting on Saturday with the other four trade bodies.
The other trade bodies 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 decided to place 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 will also call for imposing a high tax on e-commerce companies who save their customers’ data abroad with the view to helping the local data centre market to grow.
ISPAB would push for declaring fixed broadband business as an IT-enabled service with the view to getting tax holidays. “This would reduce our cost of doing business,” said MA Hakim, president of ISPAB.
The trade bodies also objected to the ICT minister’s proposal to introduce taxes on computer imports with the view to promoting local assembling.
“The government wants to make internet flourish in the remotest parts of the country and at the same it is imposing tax on computer and other device imports. This is contradictory,” said another leader who was also present in the meeting.
In fact, the trade bodies want tax exemption 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 said 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.
“This tax should be withdrawn,” said BACCO President Wahidur Rahman Sharif.
The trade bodies will also seek dislocation allowance to encourage the employees of IT companies to shift to high-tech parks, which are located in remote areas.
BCS President Subrata Sarkar and e-CAB General Secretary Muhammad Abdul Wahed Tomal were also present.