Bureaucratic procedures may prevent Pakistan’s participation at Gitex Dubai
Up until now the Pakistan IT industry believed that our government did not realize the importance of the ICT sector. Unlike other countries in the region and elsewhere in the world, our government is unable to recognise that the IT sector delivers across a wide spectrum, hence ‘silo’ mentality treatment is inappropriate. We thought they were oblivious to the fact that IT not only brings in revenues and provides well-paid employment to young people, but is also responsible for the improved efficiency of all other business sectors, of education and healthcare institutions and of government.
This week we have realized that a few things that the industry relied on the government for, are also being withdrawn due to idiotic bureaucratic procedures.
One event that the Pakistan IT industry has been participating in for 10 years is Gitex Dubai. Companies have found that it is a great place to showcase their work, network with potential customers and partners from the Middle East and Africa and pick up business. The Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB) has subsidized this participation each year.
Yes there are last minute hitches now and again and complaints are lodged about inefficiencies in arrangements and business matchmaking sessions but overall it has been an activity that has helped several companies in growing their businesses.
The process of shortlisting companies for this year’s Gitex took place a couple of months ago and companies sent in cheques amounting to Rs. 1.4 million to PSEB toward their participation. They then embarked on creating customized collateral for the event, fixing up meeting pre and post event and booking airline tickets and hotel rooms (anyone who has been to Gitex knows that this needs to be done well in advance).
On Friday participating companies were informed that all these weeks of preparation might be for nought. Apparently the PSEB which we are told has been set up to promote and increase the IT exports from Pakistan has not yet had their budgets for the year approved. They have been functioning on self-sustaining funds generated through the sale of fibre optic connectivity while they wait for the funds to be released.
Participation in Gitex would not have happened if not for the PSEB MD getting permission for the Federal IT Secretary to use the existing funds towards this event. This could then be replenished once the budgets were released. Okay so the problem seemed to have been sorted out, right? Noooooooo. The PSEB then had to apply to the Ministry of Finance so that it could purchase dollars to pay for the stall space at Gitex. The Ministry of Finance is not in a mood to grant that permission or is at least dilly-dallying over it until the extended deadline for payment has passed. Remember Gitex takes place Oct 17 – 22, 2010 in Dubai so we are already well behind in terms of payments.
If the Ministry of Finance does not give PSEB the clearance to purchase dollars today, participation in Gitex will not come about. Companies will not only have tied up their funds for this period of time, they will also have wasted money and time preparing collateral, booking tickets, hotel rooms and arranging meetings.
Can we appeal for good sense to prevail and for the Ministry of Finance to grant the permission PSEB needs? As it is PSEB has not been able to run most of its programs – apprenticeship, internship, CMMI, ISO, training programs etc because of the delay in the release of the budget. If the government really does not think that this organization needs to operate, and is of any benefit to the industry, then why does it exist?