ISLAMABAD - Though International Clearing Housing established in 2012 was against the competition rules and was illegal but recent decision of the government of abolishing ICH policy would hit the public exchequer by at least Rs 20 billion per year.

Under the ICH policy made in 2012, call termination was set at 8.8 cents per minute. In this amount, 3.3 cents was the share of the government and 5.5 cents per minute was the share of LDIs. Interestingly, LDIs were doing nothing and were making millions of dollars per month as the whole business was being done by the PTCL. The ICH policy mandated routing of all incoming traffic through a single gateway operated by PTCL as the head of the LDI ICH consortium.

Certain quarters believe that it was totally against the competition rules as earlier all LDIs had to negotiate with the foreign operators over the pricing to have the business but under ICH policy they had to do nothing but receive cheques from PTCL that was running all the business and it was a win-win situation for all of them. Well informed sources said that despite all the facts of being illegal about the ICH policy, the government did not need to do what it did and surrendered all of its financial gains coming through incoming international traffic. Under the current financial situation the country was passing through, such decision was not affordable for the country, sources said. For example, the sources said, the government could decrease the share of LDIs to 3 cents per minute from more than 5 cents per minute.  Moreover, the government could break their cartel and could force the LDIs to conduct proper business as they were doing earlier instead of brining the APC (Access Promotion Contribution) rate to zero. The sources said that the govt needed to maintain or even increase its share in ASR (Access Settlement Rate) that was 3.3 cents per minute and the rest should have been left on the LDIs to conduct business as per market rules. Even in that case, the call rate from abroad would have come down as while doing business in competitive environment LDIs would have not been in a position to charge 5.5 cents per minute from the international operators. If the government was doing all this to curb grey trafficking then it was totally illogical, the sources said.  They asked, “Would the government abolish custom duty to curb smuggling or would it lift other taxes to curb the stealing of taxes?” Well places sources said that this is no way to run the affairs of the government but it is needed to take stern action against the culprits and establish its writ instead of surrendering its rights.