BTRC drafts policy for mobile assembly

The government has drafted a guideline to encourage the manufacture and assembly of handsets in Bangladesh, following its previous move to reduce tariffs for moving parts by 24 percentage points to 1 percent.

The movement is part of the government's efforts to stick to the vast sums of foreign exchange needed for the import of handsets.

By 2016, Bangladesh imported 3.1 units of crore of appliances for Tk 8,000 crore, according to the Association of Mobile Phone Importer of Bangladesh. In addition, about 50 lakh handsets illegally enter the country each year, according to the watchdog of telecommunications.

"Mobile phones have to be manufactured in our country and should be carried out within a framework," said a commissioner of the Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission who attended the recent meeting in which the draft directive was approved.

The telecommunications regulator, however, will not impose any restrictions on importing appliances even after the installation of assembly plants.

Walton and other local companies have already submitted proposals to set up assembly plants, while some international brands have expressed interest, he added.

The BTRC will give two types of certification for the assembly facilities of the handsets, according to the draft directive.

For the category "A" certificate, the fee will be Tk 10 lakh at Tk 50 lakh and the annual fee will be Tk 5 lakh. For the category "B" certificate, the costs will be Tk 5 lakh at Tk 20 lakh and the annual fee will be Tk 2 lakh, according to the draft directive.

Both categories must bear a value added tax of 15 percent.

In accordance with the draft directive, undertakings in category "A" will have to set up test laboratories on their own initiative; the category 'B' undertakings will have to test their equipment in 'A' laboratories.

Until the establishment of testing laboratories, plants will need to obtain at least 5 percent of their tested devices in foreign accredited laboratories and the report must be submitted to the BTRC.

In addition, each plant will have to set up an electronic waste management system, service center and collection center up to the district level.

Mobile importers welcomed the draft directive.

"The time has come to turn Bangladesh into a peripheral manufacturer of a laptop importer," said Rezwanul Hoque, former general secretary of BMPIA.

BTRC also wants to make Bangladesh an exporter of devices and earn foreign currency.

The regulator said that the scope of setting up manufacturing or assembly plants will allow local entrepreneurs to invest in technology that will also create jobs.

This will also stimulate teledensity in Bangladesh and will travel to the country a little closer to Digital Bangladesh, according to the telecommunications watchdog.

Tele-density is the number of telephone connections per 100 people living in an area.

To discourage imports, the government also doubled the tariff on imports of mobile phones to 10 percent. There are other import taxes as well as 15% VAT.

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