By our correspondent
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan imported $1.3 billion worth of mobile phones during the first eight months of the current fiscal year, around 52 percent higher than what was spent in the corresponding period last year, according to the official data.
The significant growth in use of mobile phones was due to digital transition accelerating amid the social distancing orders. People are turning to online means of utilising services and buying products, according to market observers.
The amount spent on mobile imports was more than imports of power generation machinery during the same period and the second biggest head in machinery group.
Overall, telecom imports rose 39 percent to $1.6 billion and that also included imports of other apparatuses, according to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics.
In February, imports of mobile phones amounted to $175.8 million, significantly up 68 percent year-on-year. Compared to January, mobile phone imports fell 11 percent. The imports accounted for 73 percent of total telecom imports of $237 million during the last month.
Mobile phones have become a need regardless of income disparity, said an economic expert. Their imports are growing in developing economies and pressuring foreign exchange reserves.
Most of the economic sectors were affected by coronavirus lockdown last year and that reflected in 0.4 percent contraction in growth last fiscal year.
Considering that the country needs 7 to 8 percent growth to accommodate growing workforce, the slump is alarming.
Tech sector remained unaffected of the deadly crisis and rather mobile phone sales were seen rapidly growing during the testing time.
Increase in online education and shopping and remote working orders pushed up the use of internet-enabled devices and mobile phones. Number of mobile phone subscribers increased to 178 million till January compared to 160 million in July 2020, according to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority.
Use of mobile phones has been ramping up in Pakistan for a decade. Since the mobile phone has become an integral part of life, the government has to seriously promote the mobile phone industry and for that to happen IT sector needs to be further strengthened, said the expert.
“Policymakers need to learn lesson from neighbouring India that is aggressively promoting mobile phones manufacturing infrastructure,” added the expert.
Three mobile phone firms have expressed interest to set up manufacturing units in Pakistan to avail the tax incentives introduced to promote localisation. The government abolished withholding tax on locally assembled mobile phone sets.