The Ministry of Finance has agreed to set up a mechanism for making payments against Google Play Store services in Pakistan, IT Minister Syed Aminul Haque said in a statement on Thursday, confirming the continued availability of paid Google app services in the country.
The announcement came amid fears that paid services offered by Google Play Store would discontinue in the country after reports emerged that the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) had blocked payments to several international service providers, including Google, last month. What followed was a flurry of speculation that Google Play Store would completely shut down in Pakistan if the payments were not released until December 1.
Concerns mounted after several misleading reports started to swirl online, creating a wave of panic among users in the country.
The SBP, however, rejected the reports, stating it had not blocked any payments (reportedly amounting to $34 million) to international service providers, but revoked the position of banks of telecommunications companies for payments the central bank cited as violation of foreign exchange regulations.
According to SBP, the telcos were allowing customers to purchase services such as videogames, entertainment content, etc., under direct carrier billing (DCB), an online payment system that charges payments directly to one’s mobile phone carrier bill. In case of DCB being blocked, users would have to make payments through their bank cards and face limitations.
1/2 Recent news in some sections of media about stopping certain payments to Google by #SBP, are baseless and misleading. SBP strongly refutes all such assertions. See PR: https://t.co/OOnQBrQVoX pic.twitter.com/Rx11bobDLB
— SBP (@StateBank_Pak) November 26, 2022
In a major development, however, the IT minister has confirmed the payment to Google would be made according to the schedule. The SBP has been directed to delay the cancellation of DCB for one month as well, the minister added.
“The minister said the telecom operators had been given a one-month time to implement payment procedures and within a month, the Ministry of IT, Finance and State Bank would formulate a plan of action in mutual consultation in that regard,” says the statement published in a series of tweets by the IT ministry. “[Minister] Amin said that on request of the telecom operators for assistance, a letter was written to Finance Minister Ishaq Dar to make the payments and formulate a time frame.”
The Ministry of Finance has agreed to a proposal of Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Syed Amin Ul Haque with regard to evolving an effective mechanism and making payment against the Google App services. pic.twitter.com/IoE7vgV1dD
— Ministry of IT & Telecom (@MoitOfficial) December 1, 2022
Despite the SBP’s dismissal of reports as “baseless and misleading”, the concerns raised by telcos and indications towards “unannounced restrictions” to limit the outflow of dollar showed the crisis was deeper than it appeared.
Telecom operators now have a month to implement the payment mechanism. Haque expressed his gratitude to Dar and prime minister’s special assistant on finance Tariq Bajwa for “timely decision on the issue”.