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Pakistan pitches ‘most relaxed tax structure’ in the world to tech investors

Minister declares special economic zones are open to even China and Russian money so long as they do something digital or medical

Pakistan has become the latest Asian nation to declare it will roll out the welcome mat for foreign investors who want to do something to do with technology on its soil.

Federal minister for science and technology Fawad Chaudhry tweeted over the weekend: “I call upon multinationals of USA, China, Russia, Korea, Japan and EU to join hands with us rest assure Pakistan ll [sic] ensure most competitive environment and most relaxed tax structure for tech business our doors are open.”

The doors are especially open in the cities of Faisalabad, Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad, each of which will soon be adorned by 200-acre “Science and Technology Special Economic Zones”

“In these zones, technology industry and business will get special incentives,” Chaudhry wrote. “Creating a superpower is the real goal.”

The minister’s announcements were accompanied by statements that his department is enacting the “Make In Pakistan” policy that explicitly seeks to reduce the nation’s reliance on imports of manufactured goods to stimulate local manufacturing. Mobile phones are on the list of items the nation wants to make locally.

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Details of the policy are scanty, but Pakistan has in recent weeks trumpeted its success at manufacturing its own medical ventilators and has an ambition to rapidly industrialise its economy.

That ambition is far from unique as India has similar programs in place, South Korea has ambitions to offer an alternative to Japan and China thinks it can achieve silicon-self-sufficiency in coming years.

Pakistan lacks the highly-educated workforce those nations can boast, and can’t match the logistics infrastructure of China or South Korea. But the nation points to the fact that Huawei’s tech support team for the middle east is based in Pakistan as evidence of its capabilities.

Another factor in Pakistan's favor is the increasing number of reports suggesting major tech manufacturers feel they have too many eggs in the China basket and are looking to diversify their operations and spread risk. Minister Chaudhry is perhaps aware of that sentiment, as his tweets point out that two thirds of humanity are within four air hours of Pakistan. ®

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