Islamabad - The federal cabinet on Tuesday approved country’s first ever e-commerce policy to help promote online businesses domestically and internationally.

This was stated by Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan while briefing the media on cabinet decisions.

She said the meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, considered the rising trend of e-shopping, and expanding the reach of smart phones in the country.

E-commerce refers to the production, distribution, marketing, sale and delivery of goods and services by electronic means.

Globally, e-commerce has played an important role in the success of large organisations as well as small and medium enterprises (SMEs) as it helps reduce transaction costs, explore niche markets and avoid intermediaries.

The prime minister directed for planning a roadmap for rules, regulations and basic structure of e-commerce in the country.

The new E-Commerce Policy will enable PayPal to process card-not-present (CNP) transactions domestically and internationally for online businesses.

PM directs for smooth wheat supply, bread price control

At present, PayPal does not allow CNP transactions and consumers have to use cards of international financial services companies such as Visa and MasterCard for making online payments. Under the new e-commerce policy, PayPal will be able to process CNP transactions domestically.

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) will introduce guidelines on banking services for operating online merchant accounts to make them attractive for local online platforms and retailers. It will be mandatory for online businesses to maintain a physical address in Pakistan.

According to the guidelines, marketplaces will follow a code of conduct. The National Single Window Act will be promulgated for making the window function.

The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) will develop the necessary infrastructure and technical capabilities to impose levies and collect customs duty and other taxes on e-goods. Online businesses will be registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP).

The emergence of e-commerce platform has paved the way for inclusive trade and economic development. Global e-commerce has been growing exponentially for the past two decades and recorded sales growth of 13 percent in 2017 with estimated sales of $29 trillion. In addition to that, the number of online shoppers grew by 12 percent and reached 1.3 billion.

E-commerce in Pakistan is at a nascent stage with modest internet retail sales despite 161 million cellular subscribers, 70 million 3G and 4G subscribers, 72 million broadband subscribers and total tele-density of 76.56 percent as of July 2019.

However, it is an emerging sector with a noticeable surge in the recent past in online vendors, e-commerce platforms and online payment facilities introduced by banks and cellular companies.

According to the SBP figures, excluding cash-on-delivery sales, e-commerce sales stood at Rs18.7 billion by the end of June 2018 while the total size of Pakistan’s e-commerce market in 2018 was Rs99.3 billion.

The number of registered e-commerce merchants has risen by 26 times and e-commerce payments have surged 23 times in a span of just 12 months.

Other decisions

The cabinet which took up fourteen point agenda also discussed steps to control price of flour in order to control the price of Roti (bread) to reduce burden on common man.

Dr Firdous said the prime minister issued directives to Ministry of National Food Security and provincial governments to take steps to avoid shortage of wheat and control the price of bread.

The premier while taking notice of the spread of dengue in the country said efforts should be maximized to control the virus.

The meeting was given a briefing on the spike areas of dengue, and the steps being taken to overcome it.

Prime Minister Imran Khan directed the Ministry of National Health to provide all out facilities to provincial governments also in this regard.

He was also briefed on the performance of Pakistan Citizen Portal. It was informed that more than 1,173,000 citizens have registered with this app and more than a million complaints have been disposed of successfully.

The cabinet also approved exemption of Gwadar Port from taxation.

The prime minister apprised the cabinet in detail of his visit to the UN, his meetings with various heads of government and state, and other stakeholders. He said he had interaction with more than 70 personalities while the foreign minister also held more than 50 meetings.

The agenda of those meetings was to counter the Indian narrative on situation in Kashmir, expose its black face before the world community and to get the right of self-determination for oppressed Kashmiris according to UN resolutions.

Prime Minister Khan said many of the world leaders had no idea of the facts on Kashmir situation. His meetings helped them change the perception they had about Kashmir and India.

Imran Khan also informed the cabinet about the combined efforts of Pakistan, Turkey and Malaysia on stopping Islamophobia and their agreement to start a modern English channel to present the true image of Islam to the world.

The channel will also depict dramas, films, culture of the three countries and rich Islamic values and traditions.

The cabinet congratulated the prime minister at his successful visit to the United Nations and particularly his address at the UN General Assembly in which he highlighted the issue of Kashmir in a very potent way.

Answering a question about reported changes in the federal cabinet, Firdous said it is sole discretion of the prime minister to take any decision in this regard. However, she expressed her thanks to the prime minister for appreciating her performance.