Govt Ready to Announce Pakistan’s First Mobile Phone Policy

The government is all set to announce Pakistan’s first Mobile Phone Policy next month envisaging incentives for local manufacturing/assembly of mobile devices.

This was revealed by Prime Minister’s Advisor on Commerce, Textile, Industries and Production and Investment, Abdul Razak Dawood, while presiding over a meeting on draft Mobile Device Manufacturing Policy prepared by Engineering Development Board (EDB).

The policy plans to provide incentives for local manufacturing and assembly of mobile devices which will expectedly shift the focus from import of mobiles in completely built condition to semi-knocked down (SKD) and completely knocked down (CKD) condition.

The policy is mainly focusing on employment generation, import substitution and technology transfer. The revenue collection through imports will be substituted by the import of CKD kits at subsidized duty structure and enhancement of duty on CBU imports, thus making local assembly and manufacturing more feasible.

Pakistan’s Mobile Phone Industry

The mobile phone industry has grown to become one of the biggest manufacturing sectors in the world. Pakistani mobile phone market is estimated at 53 million units annually. This makes Pakistan one of the top 10 global markets for feature phones and smartphones. The sales value of Mobile Phones in Pakistan was estimated at Rs 366 billion in 2019. This makes the industry bigger than the automobile sector, with sales of Rs 360 billion in 2018.

The mobile phone manufacturing industry is now moving out of China as governments around the world are incentivizing local manufacturing through tariff measures that encourage the transition from CBU imports to SKD assembly followed by CKD assembly and ultimately targeting mobile phone exports from respective countries.

Vietnam, India, Indonesia and Bangladesh are leading this transition since 2017 as a large number of local and global assemblers have sprung up, replacing CBU imports and creating an ecosystem for CKD manufacturing and localization.

Current Tariff

Pakistan, based on the size of its domestic market, is ideally placed to leapfrog into the high tech field of Electronics and ICT industry. After the successful implementation of the DIRBS (IMEI registration system) by PTA in 2019, the possibilities of illegal CBU imports have been eliminated making it possible for FBR to alter customs duties without any fear of escalation in smuggling of CBU mobile phones.

However, unfortunately, the current tariff regime is unfavorable towards local manufacturing. As per the Customs Tariff 2019-20, it is more feasible to import a CBU mobile phone as compared to assembling it in Pakistan.

Manufacturing Licences

Currently, there are 26 companies that have been awarded manufacturing licenses by the PTA. Almost all of these companies have set up facilities for basic feature phones in Mirpur Azad Kashmir, which provides an unfair exemption of 17 percent sales tax under notification No 1145-1245/95 issued on February 08, 1995. Ironically, after a drastic reduction in duties/taxes on CBU import of feature phones through the Budget 2019-20, even these plants are unable to compete with imported feature phones.


Huawei Goes to Court Against Infinix and Tecno

M/s Tecno has set up the first smartphone manufacturing facility in Pakistan under 60:40 joint venture with Transsion China. The plant has been set up in Karachi with a local investment of $ 0.7 million with an initial capacity to produce 1.9 million mobile per year. However, due to unfavorable tariffs, the JV is currently producing less than 5,000 Smartphones per month.

Transsion China is one of the biggest mobile manufacturers in China with global sales of 124 million units in 2018. Transsion operates overseas assembly plants in India, Bangladesh and Africa under the brand names of Infinix, Tecno & Itel.

The JV intends to expand this initial investment to enter into PC manufacturing through CKD assembly within a period of three years with an investment of over $6.5 million. However, the JV wants support in the form of reasonable tariff differential of 15 percent- 20 percent on imports of CBU phones vs SKD kits.

  • What has set this in motion now is the fact that the industry is shifting to India because that country has a larger market and the economies of scale are greater there. Foxconn already has a factory there and others will follow. The authorities are afraid of what that entails. What will we do if all our phones are made by our enemy?

    This policy won’t change anything unless they enact protectionist barriers. As we’ve seen from the auto industry such barriers only lead to high priced and poor quality products. So once again the Pak consumer will suffer at the hands of our belligerent foreign policy.

    • Agree. In view of the high labour costs in China, Korea, new venues are Vietnam, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia. Pakistan in view of its vast growing domestic market has a bilateral trade treaty with China. Pakistan has to persuade company as Huawei Technologies, Inc., ZTE both are world class league of handset with lead in the 5G arena. They are in to hi-tech., but Pakistan is the country with cheap semi-skilled labor which can assemble in tax holiday area as the TIP Haripur, hazara factory can be used for assembling. TIP being a unionised organisation fresh young with digital skills as Pakistan is rapidly changing as a nation of Digitalised population. The digital skill will bring a revolution to the outlook of the country employment as skilled and compete with India, and even China as a bright youth assembly of 4/5G handsets with Hong Meng, and Android. Also the iPhone 11 and beyond can very well be assembled as mentioned in the article of Foxconn. This will lead us to the assembly of Driverless Cars which are on the same principles. We have very rich skilled workers in software for the Driverless Cars from pakistan. Thanks Gathia

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