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S Korean envoy discusses ways to boost foreign investments in Bangladesh mobile industry

South Korean Ambassador Lee Jang-keun, at his first meeting in his tenure with Posts and Telecommunications Minister Mustafa Jabbar, has stressed that Korea had interest in further development of ICT infrastructures, including digital technology of Bangladesh.

During the meeting on Tuesday, they exchanged views on issues related to bilateral interests, especially in digital technology and the production and marketing of digital devices, including mobile sets.

It is estimated that there are 15 mobile phone manufacturing businesses in Bangladesh including Samsung, and more than 90 percent of the smartphone and 65 percent of feature phone demands are being fulfilled by the local manufacturers, whose value is almost TK. 10,000 Cr. (USD 1 bln).

In the meantime, a 15.8 percent of additional trade VAT, which is being imposed in multiple business stages of the mobile phone sales starting from this Fiscal Year (22-23), is negatively affecting the local mobile phone manufacturers. Thus, now the mobile phone industry is suffering a sales drop of up to 50 percent, which is also affecting government tax revenue.

Ambassador Lee mentioned that withdrawing or reducing the trading VAT on mobile phones from the business stage can make consumers afford hand gadgets at an affordable price which will help achieve digitalization and Smart Bangladesh.

They also discussed the introduction of the While List System for parallel or illegal import mobile handsets. The parallel or illegal import (PI) of mobile phones further complicates the industry’s business situation, hampering local manufacturing. PI phones have increased by more than 50 percent, amounting to Tk. 5,000 Cr. (USD 0.5 Bln), for which the Bangladesh Government is losing its revenue up to Tk.1,000 Cr. (USD 100 Mln).

If the White List System is applied to PI phones, phones that are not registered with their International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number with the system will not work. By doing so, terrorists and extremists or money laundering entities cannot utilize PI phones.

In this respect, Ambassador Lee adduced that if the White List system is ushered in Bangladesh, customers will desist from buying PI, thereby protecting legal distribution lines.
As a corollary, manufacturers will increase investment, and more jobs will be created. Most importantly, national security will be enhanced in the absence of terrorists and criminals taking advantage of national communication due to the absence of IMEI.

Ambassador Lee also stressed that the year 2023 would be a milestone year to elevate the Korea-Bangladesh partnership to a new height, including enhanced ICT cooperation. Both countries are ready to celebrate the 50th diplomatic anniversary together.