Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Lower Import Duties Rattle Pakistan's Mobile Handset Makers

Pakistan Federal Board of Revenue has recently announced that “Sales Tax and Income Tax at import stage has been drastically reduced in case of smartphones of Rs15,000 or below". This action was apparently taken after Digital Pakistan Initiative led by Tania Aidrus asked for it. It has come under fire from the country's nascent mobile phone and smartphone manufacturing industry which is producing low-cost mobile phones. Pakistan's mobile handset market is the 8th largest in the world. Current annual demand is for about 40 million units of which 13 million are assembled in Pakistan while the rest are imported, according to a report by Dunya News. The import bill for Fiscal Year 2020 is expected to be about $1.2 billion. Boosting it will save billions of dollars of precious foreign exchange. It will create tens of thousands of jobs and spawn new auxiliary manufacturing industries for chargers, headphones, USB cables, cases, etc.  In future, Pakistan could become a significant exporter of mobile handsets.

GFive Promo. Source: GFive

Mobile Phone Demand:

There are currently 164 million mobile phone users in Pakistan, the 8th largest in the world.  The current annual demand for mobile phones in the country is estimated at about 40 million units, according to Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA). The fastest growing demand is for 4G smartphones.

According to Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, mobile-phone imports (HS Code: 8517.1219) reached $498 million in 5 months period from July to November 2019,  64% jump over the prior year. Fiscal 2019-20 imports are expected to reach $1.2 billion.

Earlier, the growth rate for 4G handsets jumped from 16% in 2018 to 29% in 2019. Imports of mobile handsets soared 69% from $ 364 million in 2018 to $ 615.7 million in 2019. Pakistan is world's seventh largest handset importer and the 8th largest mobile phone market.

Pakistan Telecom Indicators. Source: PTA

Domestic Manufacturing:

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has granted permission to 26 local companies for manufacturing out of which 15 are currently in production. Among those currently producing mobile handsets in Pakistan are: E-Tachi, GFive, Haier, Infinix and Tecno. They are producing  13 million mobile phones.

Domestic manufacturers claim that they can meet 80% of demand for mobile handsets over the next 2 to 3 years if they are sufficiently protected by higher tariffs on imports.

Domestic mobile phone manufacturing industry will save billions of dollars of precious foreign exchange. It will create tens of thousands of jobs and spawn new auxiliary manufacturing industries for parts, chargers, headphones, USB cables, cases, etc.  In future, Pakistan could become a significant exporter of mobile handsets.


Pakistan's mobile handset market is the 8th largest in the world. Current annual demand is for 40 million units. Domestic plants produce 13 million units while the rest are imported.  The import bill for Fiscal Year 2020 is expected to be about $1.2 billion.  The country's nascent mobile handset manufacturing industry fears a serious early setback if the FBR decision to lower duties on imports of foreign made mobile phones is not reversed. It is being blamed on Tania Aidrus, Prime Minister Imran Khan's advisor on Digital Pakistan Initiative, who would like to increase availability of mobile handsets. Domestic mobile phone manufacturing industry will save billions of dollars of precious foreign exchange. It will create tens of thousands of jobs and spawn new auxiliary manufacturing industries for chargers, headphones, USB cables, cases, etc.  In future, Pakistan could become a significant exporter of mobile handsets.

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Pakistan's Gig Economy 4th Largest in the World

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Riaz Haq said...

Mobile set manufacturing policy being finalised: chief of EDB’s board

Chairman EDB's Board, Almas Hyder on Wednesday said that final touches are being given to Pakistan's mobile set manufacturing policy which will be ready within the month.

While talking to Business Recorder, Hyder stated that the working on mobile set manufacturing policy began eight months ago and so far three-four meetings have been held to prepare the draft policy for the government.

In reply to a question, he said the main reason for the delay in finalization of draft policy was due to gathering of data and the formulation of procedure to acquire technology.

“Policy document is being finalised. I think one more meeting will be required to give it the final touches. We want to make it a driver of export," he added.

Almas Hyder maintained that the main purpose of the policy was to make engineering sector one of largest export-oriented sectors of Pakistan. This implies if the export of textile sector earns $ 12 billion per annum, then engineering sector would cross $ 12 billion benchmark within the next 8 to 10 years. He said that cell phone industry can contribute $500 million to $1 billion in exports of engineering goods.

“We will attract local as well as global players of mobile set manufacturers," he continued.

Mobile phone manufacturing is one of the biggest industries worldwide. This industry is now moving out of China and into countries such as India, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Vietnam.

A couple of days ago, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce and Industries and Production and Investment, Abdul Razak Dawood said that the government will give incentives to local mobile phone manufacturers.

Ministry of Industries and Production announced last year that the mobile set manufacturing policy will be unveiled in November 2019. However, despite several consultations with stakeholders over a period of 10 months EDB has yet to present a draft to the Ministry of Industries for submission to ECC for approval.

Currently, there are more than 10 domestic assemblers of mobile phones. Most of them are producing 2G feature phones & waiting for Government policy to upgrade themselves to manufacturers of 4G smart phones. A Pak-China joint venture to locally assemble smart phones has already been set up in Karachi with an initial investment of Rs 160 million.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has been directing his economic ministries to create an environment conducive for investment, domestic & foreign, in the sub-sector which would lead to creation of job opportunities.

Industry sources state that mobile phone assembly is a labor intensive activity which if duly incentivised, can create over 120,000 jobs within a period of three years. Most of these jobs will be for skilled workers & young electronics engineers graduating from local universities.

Industry is demanding a clear roadmap from the Government – from assembling mobile phones and progressively encouraging localization of components & mother board assembly – over a period of 3-4 years.

Representatives of local manufacturers believe that after successfully introducing IMEI registration by the PTA in March 2019 all chances of smuggling and grey imports of mobile phones have been eliminated. This industry can now be used as a game changer for creating a base of Electronics sector in Pakistan which has a requirement of around 40 Million handsets on an annual basis.

Riaz Haq said...

GVCs – a fillip for exports

Sync with Global Value Chains (GVCs) is imperative for Pakistan to grow its struggling exports. In 1990, the ratio of GVCs to traditional share in exports was 40:60. Today it's almost at 50:50. Pakistan has lagged behind. Emphasizing on catching up, SBP has published a special section on GVCs in its recent quarterly economic update.

GVC in modern world can be explained by the iPhone example. Designed in US; assembled in China and Vietnam; components to assemble are supplied by South Korea and Japan; and sold across the globe. The GVCs have made the economies think beyond domestically available resource based value added exports. For example, Bangladesh has become the second biggest world supplier of garments without any cotton production. Vietnam has created its niche in outer structure and final assembling of mobile phones by importing high tech components; it's the world third biggest mobile phone manufacturer including 40 percent of Samsung mobiles.

Meanwhile, Pakistan has continued concentrate on traditional exports within its low base in developed markets. The share in global demand of developed world shrunk from 81 percent in 1995 to 62 percent. The share of emerging economies is expected to increase further to 51 percent by 2030. Pakistan should look for new markets in a non-traditional way.

In 1995, foreign value added components of Pakistan's exports was 4.8 percent. In 2015, the ratio inched up to 5.6 percent. Consistently, 95 percent of country's exports are on value addition on domestic components such as cotton, rice, animal hides etc. Our foreign value addition in textile products is in the form of chemicals and dyes, high quality cotton, manmade fiber etc. Such process is termed as backward participation.

Pakistan's share in GVCs is mostly in forward participation i.e. some other country adds value in Pakistan's exports to re-export. For example, yarn and fabric are exported to China, Bangladesh and Turkey, which produce and export value added products to stores like Zara, Marks & Spencer and H&M.

Pakistan needs to create linkages with original brand manufacturers, and original brand designers. The textile sector lacks diversification in higher unit value manmade fibers. A good example within the country is of denim trousers (jeans) where exporters are contributing in the supply chain of brands like Target, Gap, Levi's etc.

There are two other sectors where we have footprints in GVCs – Medical Devices and ICT services. In the former, the skill set is clustered in Sialkot and 98 percent participation is in precision metal instruments. The low value addition does not lure multifetal enterprises (MNEs) to invest in Pakistan. These have production facilities in Malaysia, Mexico and Dominican Republican. Upcoming SEZs and EPZs should focus on bringing MNEs to become part of GVCs.

The way forward is to enhance Pakistan's share in GVCs within sections of existing exports – positioning for brands by improving quality standards in forward participation. Find new avenues to develop backward participation. World top five exporting sectors are electrical and machinery, petro chemical and non-metal minerals, transport equipment, metal products, and financial intermediaries and business activities. Pakistan's share ranges from 0.00 to 0,03 percent in global exports of these sectors.

The foremost important factor for enhancing footprint in GVCs is to liberalize trade (tariff) policy. For details read “National Tariff Policy – the long haul". SBP noticed that the tariff liberalization started in 2000s is non-uniform, “Some industries such as automobile and steel, have continued to enjoy higher protection, which fueled an anti-export bias". Government should end the protection to redirect the flow of productive capital in export oriented sectors.

Riaz Haq said...

The Standard Chartered SDG Investment Map reveals an almost USD10 trillion (USD9.668 trillion) opportunity for private-sector investors across all emerging markets to help achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with Pakistan representing USD96.2 billion of that totals. The study identifies opportunities for the private sector to contribute to three infrastructure-focused goals between now and 2030: SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation, SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy and SDG 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure across emerging markets. Need for private investment intensifying.

The greatest investment opportunity in Pakistan is found in achieving and maintaining universal access to electricity (a key SDG 7 indicator), representing a USD44.7 private-sector opportunity. This considers the proportion of the population currently without electricity access (29 per cent), projected population growth, and the growing demand for power as the economy develops.

There is also significant opportunity for investment in digital infrastructure, with a potential private-sector contribution of around USD34 billion needed to achieve full digital adoption (measured by a combination of mobile phone subscription rates and internet connectivity). Digital access is a key indicator for SDG 9, which encourages improvement in industry, innovation and infrastructure. The other SDG 9 indicator in Opportunity2030 is transport infrastructure. To significantly improve Pakistan’s transport infrastructure by 2030 indicates a USD13.5 billion investment opportunity for the private sector.

The opportunity in the water and sanitation sector is smaller but could make a significant impact. Almost a quarter (24 per cent) of Pakistan’s population still do not have access to clean water and sanitation, a key SDG 6 indicator. Closing this gap by 2030 will require significant investment, with an opportunity for the private sector to provide around USD4 billion of the funding.

Shazad Dada, Chief Executive Officer at Standard Chartered, said: “Pakistan has demonstrated strong commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals by becoming the first country to adopt the SDGs as part of its national development agenda through a parliamentary resolution. The private sector will play a crucial role in enabling Pakistan to hit these targets and there is substantial opportunity for investment that supports infrastructure development, including digital, energy provisioning as well as clean water and sanitation.

“Opportunity2030 provides an important map of the SDG opportunities for private sector investors looking to invest with impact and improve the lives of millions of Pakistanis over the next decade.”


Market Water and sanitation (SDG 6) Access to power* (SDG 7) Transport infrastructure (SDG 9) Digital access (SDG 9) Total
China USD26.1bn N/A USD2.310tn USD492.8bn USD2.829tn
India USD19.2bn USD701.5bn USD176.9bn USD226.5bn USD1.124tn
Indonesia USD4.0bn USD147.5bn USD75.5bn USD53.7bn USD280.7bn
Bangladesh USD3.2bn USD73.9bn USD21.6bn USD33.3bn USD132.0bn
The Philippines USD1.9bn USD61.3bn USD26.1bn USD28.2bn USD117.5bn
Nigeria USD5.7bn USD32.3bn USD28.8bn USD47.4bn USD114.2bn
Pakistan USD4.0bn USD44.7bn USD13.5bn USD34.0bn USD96.2bn
Thailand USD0.7bn N/A USD40.6bn USD17.0bn USD58.3bn
Vietnam USD1.3bn N/A USD20.1bn USD24.4bn USD45.8bn
Kenya USD2.3bn USD15.6bn USD9.1bn USD13.0bn USD40.0bn
Malaysia USD0.4bn N/A USD25.8bn USD8.8bn USD35.0bn
Ghana USD0.8bn USD7.8bn USD4.1bn USD6.9bn USD19.6bn
Sri Lanka USD0.2bn USD7.3bn USD4.6bn USD4.1bn USD16.2bn
Uganda USD0.8bn USD6.1bn USD2.8bn USD4.0bn USD13.7bn
Zambia USD0.7bn USD4.0bn USD1.6bn USD3.2bn USD9.5bn

Riaz Haq said...

Incentives in the works to diversify exports

The Imran Khan government plans to introduce significant time-bound, structured fiscal incentives and protection for 20 industries other than the five zero-rated sectors besides ensuring their easier access to cheap short- and long-term finance for diversifying and boosting the country’s stagnating exports.

The incentives will be part of the new Strategic Trade Policy Framework (STPF) expected to be finalised in the next couple of months, Commerce Secretary Ahmed Nawaz Sukhera told Dawn on Thursday.

"The government is looking beyond the five zero-rated export sectors including the textile. It is time we also focused and facilitated industries like light engineering, chemicals, IT, etc with substantial potential to diversify and increase our exports," he said.

"Textile industry does have the potential to enhance its foreign sales but it can push our overall exports only so much. We need to encourage other industries with untapped potential."

Pakistan’s trade gap has shrunk 31pc to $11.6 billion in the first half of this fiscal year to December, primarily on the back of 17 per cent compression in imports, which dropped to $23.2bn. Meanwhile, exports have risen by a mere 3.2pc to $11.5bn despite steep currency devaluation during last one and a half years and energy subsidies given to textiles, which fetch 55-60pc of the country’s total proceeds from foreign sales.

According to a World Bank report, the country’s share in the global exports has declined from a peak of 0.18pc to 0.13pc in 2018 with the bulk of them are resource-based or commodities.

"We are moving in the direction of export-led economic growth and away from import substitution policies. The global experience shows that you cannot pursue both export growth and import substitution policies simultaneously; so we have decided to increase competitiveness of our industries with export potential," Sukhera said.

The stabilisation on the external front in the recent months has created room for the State Bank to help exporting industries, and enhance the financing limit for exporters though its subsidised loan schemes — Export Finance Scheme (EFS) and Long Term Finance Facility (LTFF) — by Rs100bn for the full year.

Under EFS exporters are eligible to receive short-term loans at 3pc to meet their working capital requirements while LTFF caters to their needs for long-term funds to import machinery and plants. For the textile sector, LTFF is available at 5pc and for others at 6pc.

SBP Governor Reza Baqir, who has repeatedly underscored the importance of increasing exports to pull the country out of the frequent boom-and-bust cycles, says the scope of these schemes will be extended to more industries and sectors with export potential.

Experts say the current account stability based on massive import compression is hurting the industry and could backfire if exports are not increased substantially and swiftly. The current account deficit has squeezed by 73pc in the first six months of this fiscal year.

Riaz Haq said...

In this age of of global supply chains, very few if any products are made in just one country; multiple countries add value to the finished product. Some make components while others build subassemblies and still others do the final assembly. All countries participating in the value chain create jobs and make money in the process

Riaz Haq said...

PTCL to build #Pakistan’s first high-perf #telecom 200G #network with #Nokia. PTCL CTO: “We have enhanced the existing capacity from 100G optical network to 200G to take care of the growing traffic in these cities (#Karachi, #Lahore, #Islamabad)” #fiber

Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) has deployed Nokia’s technology to expand the capacity of its recently installed 100G transport network to 200G optical network for both domestic and international traffic.

This capacity expansion has been carried out in the major cities of Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi to keep pace with the growing demands for capacity from both individuals as well as enterprises.

The deployment makes PTCL the first operator in Pakistan to deploy high-performance 200G 8 Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM), an optical long-haul technology offering more capacity at lower cost. The upgrade of its optical network allows PTCL to address the growing demands of bandwidth, enabling its enterprise and individual users in Pakistan’s largest cities to use high-bandwidth services and applications such as HD and 4K video.

In addition, the network upgrade allows PTCL to enhance network capacity with the Software Defined Network (SDN) capabilities of Nokia’s optical solution. Further, the unique flexgrid technology will enable PTCL to upgrade to 300G or 400G in the future over the same installed base.

Saad Muzaffar Waraich, Chief Technology & Information Officer, PTCL, said: “We have enhanced the existing capacity from 100G optical network to 200G to take care of the growing traffic in these cities.”

Carlo Corti, Director of the Optics Business Development, MEA, Nokia, said: “Our field-proven technology enables PTCL to provide the best-in-class network experience to its subscribers. With our 200G technology, PTCL is now in a position to cost-efficiently address the ever-growing demand for capacity.”

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan urgently needs pathway for higher growth. Must be export-led by Sakib Sherani

AS large parts of the economy grind into recessionary conditions, the clamour for policy focus on growth is increasing. However, the government’s policy mix is constrained under an IMF-led stabilisation programme, with no space for a stimulus in either fiscal or monetary policy. Under the current programme, the government is bound to achieve fiscal consolidation over three years of almost 6.5 per cent of GDP — the highest reduction in the fiscal deficit in Pakistan’s history over a similar time span.

Under the IMF stabilisation framework, short-run economic growth is not collateral damage — it is virtually ground zero, the epicentre of policy focus. Achieving a sharp correction in the external current account imbalance in the shortest possible time requires an equally sharp compression in imports. The contractionary policy mix adopted as a result leaves businesses struggling for survival — via the sucking out of purchasing power and the overall increase in cost of doing business (on borrowing, imported inputs and energy use).

In its latest monetary policy statement, the State Bank appears to indicate an abandoning of its unrealistic and overly optimistic assessment of growth prospects for the current fiscal year — something I have been pointing out for the last several months. With near-term growth prospects bleak, and unemployment and high inflation imposing a punishing burden on large swaths of the populace, there is a clear need for a policy framework that delivers less pain while achieving the broad aims of not just stabilisation but wider reform.

Pakistan needs a return to high rates of economic growth, but only one that is sustained, sustainable, export-led, jobs creating, and inclusive — rather than the four-year boom-bust cycle the country has been trapped in ie a better quality of growth. To achieve this requires serious structural as well as institutional reform — some of the very measures such as documentation and widening of the tax base that are contributing to challenging business conditions and pessimistic investor sentiment. So what can the government do differently, to ease the pain?


In response to the Great Financial Crisis of 2007, countries ranging from the US to Singapore sought to insulate businesses from the effects of the recession by a host of heterodox policy measures. The US government pumped nearly $700 billion in fiscal stimulus measures alone in response to the recession, over and above the aggressive and unprecedented expansion of the US Federal Reserve’s balance sheet. Measures taken included recapitalisation of financial institutions, capital injections in the Big Three auto companies as well as insurance firm AIG, launching programmes such as ‘cash-for-clunkers’, cutting payroll taxes, and extending unemployment benefits. An expanded public works programme to create jobs was also launched.

Similarly, Singapore adopted maintaining citizen employment during the crisis as an explicit policy goal and launched a ‘jobs credit scheme’, effectively temporarily subsidising the wage cost of firms.

While Pakistan cannot match the scale of such measures given its fiscal constraints and public debt level, the foregoing presents examples of precisely the kind of bold thinking and heterodox policies that are required. Some possible measures that can be undertaken include:

— Extend energy tariff subsidy to indirect exporters/export sector supply chain.

— Underwrite fresh loans to SMEs.

— Provide interest rate subsidy on new loans/expand access to concessionary finance.

— Swap existing high-cost loans with subsidised credit schemes for certain high spillover sectors (with high linkages and employment intensity, for example)

— Ensure access to credit for credit-constrained SMEs.

— Ensure timely release of tax refunds due.

— Provide tax credits for new investment.