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South Asia Update

Bangladesh Sets to Export Computer Software
Plans to establish I. T. Village

The Government of Bangladesh, with an aim to become a major developer and exporter of computer software, is educating the people in development of the same, and for exploiting its export potentialities, is planning to offer duty free imports and cash incentives. Also, the Government is planning to establish an ‘Information Technology Village’ to boost investment in the ever booming field of IT. Tax reduction on computer software and accessories and withdrawal of 15 % value added tax on computer trade are the clear indications of the Government’s efforts in this direction.
According to Government officials, the annual revenue earnings from the sector are about $5.15 million and aims are to earn up to $3.0 billion in exports within next 5 years. The Government still unable to monitor the extent of export, with the private sector entirely capturing the market. Non-physical nature of the software being another reason, Bangladesh Government feels that there should be a high tech mechanism to monitor the exports.

Nepal opens telecom to private sector
Initiative may reduce the cost of Internet service

Ending decades of monopoly of the State-owned Nepal Telecommunications Corporation, the Nepal Government has now opened its Telecommunication sector to the private sector, the bill passed by the Napalese Parliament in 1996. Private companies will now be allowed to operate a total of 12 telecom services including ‘Very Small Aperture Terminals’ (VSAT), network provider and VSAT user, audio conferencing, pay phone, pre-paid calling card, local data network and radio paging, only after possessing individual licenses for each service.

VSATs are specialized earth stations equipped with transceivers (transmitter and receiver) and are capable of up-linking as well a downlinking voice, data and video signals. They can easily be used anywhere without assistance of cable connection, vouching to be a useful and impressive tool for a country like Nepal whose development of terrestrial facilities is weakened by difficult terrain.

Largely welcomed in Nepal, with about a dozen private companies already applied for the license for various services, the experts are of the view that the private sector will bring down the cost of Internet service along with upgrading efficiency.

Pakistan rules out SAFTA by 2001:
Sri Lanka hesitates….

The agreement signed in 1997 by all the seven SAARC countries for converting the present SAPTA (south Asian Preferential Trade Agreement) into SAFTA (South Asian Free Trade Agreement) by the year 2001has been ruled out by Pakistan. According to the Pakistani officials, this decision has been taken because until there is a level-playing field between India and Pakistan, such kind of free trade regime cannot be created.

In the latest SAARC council of ministers’ meeting held at Sri Lanka, apart from Pakistan holding SAPTA by entreating the Kashmir issue, Sri Lanka too, showed hesitant signs of possible progress. After the meeting, the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan agreed on sorting out the two countries free trade agreement, concluding that if the Indo-Lanka agreement goes through before July SAARC meet on SAPTA, Pakistan may, hopefully, agree for it.

“SAARC should work for single currency”
Call for a coordinated approach at WTO

The Union Commerce Minister of India Mr. Ramkrishna Hegde has urged the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries to forge closer ties and work towards a common currency on the lines of the euro, so that the region becomes a powerful trading block. The minister also called for a coordinated approach by the SAARC nations at the World Trade Organisation. He said that the developed world is trying to push their agenda on multi-lateral forums, including the WTO. “If we cast aside the extraneous factors which are germane to trade and economic cooperation, the SAARC family will be able to stand and compete with the regional groupings.”

South Asian Management Forum- a boulevard towards integration
India and Sri Lanka working together to make the idea a reality

In order to make the South Asian countries more streamlined and more professionally integrated, India and Sri Lanka are trying to bring all the institutions, professionals and management associations of South Asia region under one group. The Director General of AIMA, Mr. D. N. Khurana and Mr. G. L. Peiris, the minister for Trade and Justice, Sri Lanka are contacting the management institutions and people involved in all the seven countries to discuss for the constitution of a ‘South Asian Management Forum.’

According to Mr. Khurana, the need for South Asia to own its own management forum through is that the countries would be able to pursue mutually beneficial management development programs. This would facilitate better sharing of material and human resources, and with free flow of the management professionals across the nations, South Asia will be able to avail the management services and consultancy at much cheaper rates. Both India and Sri Lanka have offered this proposal to other South Asian countries and are hopeful for its approval.

CII signs agreement with Myanmar Computer Federation:

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) and Myanmar Computer Federation focuses on the scope of accretion of activities related to the development of Information Technology industries both in India and Myanmar. This exertion is hoped to bring about a closer working relationship between the pinnacle industry associations of the two countries.

Both these trade bodies would be working together for mutual exchange of information regarding products, companies and operations related to Information Technology and will provide assistance to each other’s companies, share technical expertise on specific products and services in the IT sector. Simultaneously, seminars, courses, training and educational services will be rendered to enhance both the Indian and Myanmar IT companies.