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ICT sector remains non-starter (Author: Jasim Uddin Haroon)
Posting Date:2011-01-14

The Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector has never achieved its export target over the past 15 years despite the fact it enjoyed a flurry of facilities as a thrust sector.

Its performance remains 15 to 20 per cent below the strategic export target each year, according to data available with the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB).

The incentives include tax holiday, accelerated depreciation, concessionary duty on imported capital machinery, full repartition of capital, profit and dividends and exemption of income tax.

The EPB, national export promoting agency, sat several times with the ICT firms on the issue. But ICT professionals insisted the sector earns much more than the EPB official data. EPB collects data from central bank based on the letter of credit (L/C) settlement.

Data processing and computer consultancy remained almost stagnant over the past 10 years while software development only grew at a snail's pace.

Computer consultancy received an earning of 1.4 million US dollars each year over the last one decade ending 2009-10. Data Processing earned each year on an average 3.2 million US dollars during the period.

Mahbub Zaman, president of BASIS (Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services), admitted that the ICT sector failed to reach its goal over the years.

Mr. Zaman who also owns leading computer services company Data Soft, said, 'This failure can be attributed to the poor infrastructure in the country.'

EPB officials said they had met with the ICT people several times on the issue and requested them to boost export as they are getting different benefits from the government since 1994-95.

Experts say the sector has no comparative advantage to sustain in the international market.

They also said the benefits derived by IT services providers are much more higher compared to their earnings and contribution to the economy.

MA Taslim, chief executive officer of Bangladesh Foreign Trade Institute, said no sector can flourish relying only on the state support or nursing.

He said: 'ICT has no comparative advantage to trade in the international trade and its export performance is really dismal.'

Mr Taslim, also a professor of Department of Economics, said the government should review its list of thrust sectors with support from the people in international trade.

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