An alliance of ICT businesses led by the Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS) has demanded a Tk5,000 crore special fund and relaxed tax measures in the upcoming budget to continue operation during the Covid-19 crisis.
The ICT sector apex body made these demands on Wednesday in a joint press briefing with four other ICT bodies – E-commerce Association of Bangladesh (E-CAB), Internet Service Providers Association of Bangladesh (ISPAB), Bangladesh Computer Samity (BCS), and Bangladesh Association of Call Centres and Outsourcing (BACCO).
BASIS President Syed Almas Kabir said ICT industry operators are working as frontline fighters during the Covid-19 shutdown to keep the internet ecosystem and online-based businesses running.
He urged the government to create a Tk5,000 crore fund to provide loans to ICT companies at two percent interest and with a 12-month grace period.
"Most of our members don't have pervious credit history and that is why banks are not allowing us financing under the government stimulus package. Therefore, a separate fund is needed for our industry players," he explained.
He said the importance of the ICT sector has become evident during the latest crisis as the government and private sector works are largely dependent on internet.
"It is important for the policy makers now to lend their hands and empower the industry as much possible. The ICT industry will be the key for future economic growth even in the post pandemic era," said the BSIS president.
He said VAT on online transactions and mobile financial services should be waived to encourage digital payments.
"Also the government should have a quota for local software across all the ministries, so the local industry can continue doing business during this tough time," he added.
BCS President Shahid Ul Munir said import tax on various computer products should be reduced in order to make the business sustainable.
"The source tax on computer items should be reduced to 2 percent from the existing 5 percent tax. Import duty on monitor and other equipment also needs to be reduced," he said.
MA Hakim, president of ISPAB, said the government should include ISPAB's member companies' service as ICT enabled services.
"We are providing one of the key services like internet, based on which other businesses are operating. So, the government needs to include our services as ICT enabled services so that we can get the benefits under it," he said.
E-CAB President Shomi Kaiser said the key challenge for the online-based businesses is getting access to financing and the government should take measures for it immediately.
"During the crisis it was the e-commerce industry that provided all the essential goods and medicine to the people's doorsteps. If our business suffers then the people will suffer eventually," she said.
BACCO President Wahid Sharif said a number of small call centres and BPO businesses are suffering due to the Covid-19 crisis.
"The companies we were serving are mostly out of operation or have scaled down their activities, so our businesses are almost closed. The government should come up with incentives to bring back the sector to life," he said.