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SECP startup portal aims to encourage tech innovation in Pakistan

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The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan has launched an exclusive startup portal to encourage technology innovation in Pakistan.

It was inaugurated by SECP Information System and Technology Commissioner Shauzeb Ali during the ‘Startup Grind Pakistan’ conference in Islamabad, according to a press statement issued by the commission on Tuesday. 

The portal features a list of startups, simplified user experience for registration, access to mentors and incubation centres, online guides and video tutorials for startup companies.

“The SECP startup portal will be a gateway to information and collaboration hub, for the facilitation and uplifting of the existing and future entrepreneurs to connect and excel,” Ali was quoted as saying in the press statement. It said he hoped that the portal will evolve with time as an important part of the startup ecosystem in Pakistan.

A large gathering of entrepreneurs, innovators and technologists attended the conference to share their stories and inspire young entrepreneurs.

“SECP has instituted various reforms to develop a comprehensive and coherent industry policy to shape regulatory thinking and promote a conducive Fintech environment in Pakistan. This will help attract local and international innovators,” the statement read.

Ali spoke about the role of SECP and other public sector organisations in encouraging investment and fostering economic growth and prosperity in Pakistan.

“The SECP is also reviewing the Companies Act with an objective to facilitate startups and provide a conducive environment to young innovative entrepreneurs, amendments in Private Equity and Venture Capital Regulations, draft Equity Crowdfunding Regulations, setting up facilitation desks at CROs and launching of first ever regulatory Sandbox in Pakistan,” he was quoted as saying.

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Pakistan is the world’s 26th biggest consumer market and its startup sector reflects this appetite. E-commerce, food delivery and ride-hailing services are common in the sector and several have been attracting international attention.

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Economy

Finance Minister for KP and Punjab called on the Minister for Finance and Revenue

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Finance Minister for Khyber Pakhtunkwa (KP) Mr. Taimur Saleem Khan Jhagra called on the Federal Minister for Finance and Revenue, Mr. Shaukat Tarin, at the Finance Division today. SAPM on Finance and Revenue Dr. Waqar Masood and Secretary Finance Division Kamran Ali Afzal were also present during the meeting.

The Provincial Finance Minister from KP briefed the Finance Minister about efforts undertaken by the Provincial government to curtail expenditure and rationalize spending with a key focus on providing maximum relief to the masses amid COVID-19 pandemic. He also outlined measures taken to enhance provincial tax collection by expanding tax base and reducing the number of taxes.

The Provincial Finance Minister KP further apprised about commitment of the KP Government to streamline pay and pension expenditure which takes the biggest chunk of the overall Budget.

In his remarks, the Finance Minister Mr. Shaukat Tarin urged the Provincial administration to adhere to strict financial discipline and work out modalities to rationalize expenditure and divert savings towards socio-economic development in the Province particularly amid COVID-19 and in post COVID-Scenario. He stressed to stimulate economic activity through out-of-box thinking for enhancing revenues, rationalizing workforce and harmonizing tax structure aiming at improving service delivery in the Province.

While discussing Budget proposals, the Federal Finance Minister stressed that Education and Health are the key priority areas and must be given preference during the Budget making exercise. He encouraged consultative process between the Federal Government and Federating units for effective resource mobilization.

Later, Finance Minister for Punjab Makhdoom Hashim Jawan Bakht also called on the Federal Minister for Finance and Revenue, Mr. Shaukat Tarin at the Finance Division.

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The Provincial Finance Minister briefed the Federal Finance Minister about the overall fiscal position and upcoming Budget considerations during the meeting. He highlighted the steps taken by the Punjab Government to provide maximum relief to the vulnerable segments of the society during these testing times. He spelled out the vision and commitment of the Punjab Government to increase revenues, control expenditure, job creation, reduction of poverty and facilitating agriculture, Industrial and service sectors to tap true potential of these sectors for an export-led growth.

In his remarks, the Finance Minister emphasized the need for value-addition in Budget making exercise. He urged the Provincial Finance Minister to rationalize expenditure and harmonize taxation policies for a growth-oriented Budget.

The Finance Minister held meetings with the Provincial Finance Ministers as a part of an overall consultative process with key stakeholders including Provinces to seek valuable inputs for formulation of a people friendly growth-oriented Budget.

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Exports

PAKISTAN’S EXPORTS TO JAPAN EXPERIENCE A 40% GROWTH

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Pakistan’s exports to Japan have jumped by 40% in the first quarter (Jan – Mar) of 2021 compared to the last quarter of 2020 i.e. (Oct – Dec). The increase is more than 47% when compared to the same period last year i.e. Jan – Mar 2020.

These trade figures have been released recently by Japan’s Ministry of Finance. This trend highlights that Pakistan is coming out of the challenges to international trade posed by the current pandemic. Covid related limitations had brought a slight negative impact on trade between Pakistan and Japan towards the end of last year; however, Pakistan’s exports to Japan bounced back in high numbers. As compared to exports of US$ 61.6 million in the last quarter of 2020, Pakistan has exported goods worth of US$ 86.1 million to Japan from January to March 2021, whereas exports in the same quarter last year stood at US$ 58.7.

This multiplying trend observed in bilateral trade is mainly associated with focused efforts of the Mission to diversify the export mix of Pakistan for Japan. Pakistani Mission in Tokyo, through its Trade and Investment Wing, devised an export diversification strategy ‘Option Pakistan’ last year with a focused layout plan – reaching out to all major business chambers and trade associations in Japan, introducing a range of Pakistani exportable products.

The strategy not only resulted in spreading information about Pakistan and its trade potential but also helped in providing Japanese companies with an attractive source of procurement for their businesses that are facing serious issues of depleting stocks due to travel restrictions. In the recent months seafood products, petroleum, dry fruits, spices and minerals have contributed to Pakistan’s rising exports to Japan; whereas, a considerable increase has been noticed in export of woven fabric, knitted garments, honey, sports goods, cutlery, socks, gloves, gems & jewelry and dates.

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Ambassador Imtiaz Ahmad along Trade and Investment Counsellor Tahir Cheema held meetings with local government trade departments, regional JETROs and Chambers of Business in Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto, Nara, Sendai, Aomori and other important business hubs. This high-level interaction with the Japanese business community resulted in raising the confidence of Japanese importers in Pakistani goods. Augmenting these efforts, the Mission through its Trade Counsellor Mr. Cheema participated in almost all major trade fairs and exhibitions held in and around Tokyo since resumption of such events since September last year in a hybrid mode as international exporters are unable to enter Japan to display their goods for such promotional activities.

Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) is also partnering with the Mission to increase presence of Pakistani companies and products in the upcoming events to be held in a hybrid mode in Japan as the pandemic prolongs, adding to the challenges of manufacturers and exporters. This support will come in the form of enhanced subsidy by TDAP for priority sectors. In the coming months, TDAP, JETRO and Pakistan’s Trade Mission at the Embassy will further strengthen plans to increase Pak-Japan trade.

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Digital

Freelancer.com Q1 FY21: Record breaking-quarter

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Freelancer Ltd., the owner of Freelancer.com, has reported a 39% rise in gross payment volume to $192.9 million (AU$249.7 million) in Q1 2021 and a 32.1% rise in net cash receipts year-on-year to $12 million (AU$15.6 million). Both figures have set record highs for the Sydney-based company. 

Freelancer Ltd. includes both its freelancing marketplace and Escrow.com, an online escrow service founded in 1999 in San Francisco and purchased by Freelancer.com in 2015.

Freelancer.com’s Q1 gross marketplace volume (payments to freelancers) totaled $25.9 million, up 23.6% y-on-y, and its cash receipts set another record at $10.1 million, up 31.4% y-on-y. The group reports that 72% of its revenue is in USD and 4% is in AUD. 

Freelancer (FLN) has traded on the ASX in Australia since 2013 and in March 2021 it began trading in the US on the OTCQX Best Markets under the symbol FLNCF, upgrading from the Pink market. At the time of writing, FLN shares were up 8.81% and FLNCF was trading at $.65, up 3.26%.

Freelancer Enterprise, the company’s virtual workforce management system, grew its gross marketplace volume by 83.4% y-on-y and the average spend by key accounts is up 2.3x y-on-y. In addition to financials, Freelancer.com reported reaching 52.7 million registered users and 19.7 million jobs, with 1.9 million users and 519,000 jobs added in Q1, and a 105.7% increase in website traffic y-on-y to 16.4 million users.

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