Policy gaps threaten realization of Pakistan’s e-commerce potential: study
Statesman Report
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s lack of policy direction for the digital transformation of the economy threatens the realization of its e-commerce potential, an Islamabad-based think tank says in a study released on Friday.
In 2020, the State Bank of Pakistan forecasts total e-commerce activity in Pakistan to have more than tripled since 2016-17. However, the growth of the e-commerce sector “has largely been in spite of government policy action (or lack thereof), not because of it,” the report says.
According to technology policy expert Anum Malkani, who authored the study published by Tabadlab, despite e-commerce being recognized as an important tool to boost small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), employment and exports, the policy response has been slow.
While the Ministry of Commerce released Pakistan’s e-commerce policy in October 2019 to address the slow pace and lack of direction, Tabadlab argues there remains ambiguity on key issues such as data protection, digital financial transactions, and foreign direct investment (FDI) in e-commerce.
To truly transform transactions, the study says, policy must strengthen the technology and payments infrastructure and improve access across the country and regulatory framework, including protecting consumers from fraud, and ensuring data protection and privacy.
It must also clarify taxation policy with regard to local and international e-commerce, and enable access to foreign markets through multilateral and bilateral agreements.
If not addressed, according Tabadlab, the gaps threaten the realization of Pakistan’s e-commerce potential.