Though the governments formal announcement to auction the 3G-4G spectrum auction this month has rekindled the hope of a sizeable foreign investment in the local telecom sector, which has dried up since long in terms of financial injections, yet the increased volume of grey telephony has emerged as a potential factor which is inflicting heavily on the national kitty. According to the fresh data, the recorded volume of incoming international calls dropped from an astonishing two billion minutes to less than 500 million minutes per month in two years, courtesy the mushroom growth of illegal telephone exchanges across the country. The subsequent annual loss, which is around one billion dollars, can also trigger more financial troubles for the already cash-starved Pakistan, which is currently moving international financial institutions to seek capital on tougher terms and conditions to meet its monetary liabilities at home. The establishment of controversial International Clearing House (ICH) by the previous government in October 2012 has been termed the root cause of increased volume of grey telephony in the country. This speaks volumes about the “inefficiency” of decision makers or the vicious elements in the previous government as a couple of members of the PPP governments kitchen cabinet were reported to have involved in getting major kickbacks to turn their backs on this illegal business in the country. Under the ICH, the entire incoming telephonic traffic has been put at the disposal of the PTCL. All the 14 long distance and international (LDI) licence-holding operators formed a consortium which through an agreement had allowed the PTCL to manage the incoming telephone traffic and, in return, receive their proportionate share in the income. True that the ICH was the brainchild of the previous government, but what to say when we see that the grey trafficking has increased significantly now and the incumbent government, despite having passed about 10 months in power, has not taken any tangible measures to arrest this illegal practice. At this stage, one would not deny the fact that the grey trafficking gets encouraged in the country when the incoming call charges are exorbitantly high, as the elements involved explore all illegitimate options to offer cheap rates to masses. Pakistan is fast going for the next generation of telecommunication where more foreign investments are going to be pumped in besides stirring economic activities as well as employments. At this crucial stage, the authorities along with all stakeholders should rise to the situation so that the national kitty is saved from this continued heavy revenue loss.
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