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Mobile operators want Tax cuts to boost digital yields

Grameenphone CEO Rajeev Sethi, third from left; BTRC Chairman Sunil Kanti Bose, third from right; and AMTOB Secretary General TIM Nurul Kabir, second from right, attend a discussion, at Digital Investment Summit at Radisson hotel in Dhaka yesterday. Photo: Star

Grameenphone CEO Rajeev Sethi, third from left; BTRC Chairman Sunil Kanti Bose, third from right; and AMTOB Secretary General TIM Nurul Kabir, second from right, attend a discussion, at Digital Investment Summit at Radisson hotel in Dhaka yesterday. Photo: Star

Without giving any reason, The Daily Star reporters were denied access to the Digital Investment Summit, which was attended by Prime Minister’s ICT Affairs Adviser Sajeeb Ahmed Wazed, at Radisson hotel in the capital yesterday. However, the reporters entered the venue and covered the rest of the event when Wazed left the programme after lunch. There has been an unofficial embargo on the newspaper in covering any event of the prime minister as well as of ruling Awami League at Gono Bhaban, Prime Minister’s Office, the party chief’s Dhanmondi office and other places since April last year.

Mobile phone operators yesterday urged the government to reduce the overall tax in the telecom sector for bringing the full benefit of digital technology to the general people.

“Higher tax is the biggest barrier for telecom operators to operate in the country,” said TIM Nurul Kabir, secretary general of the Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh.

The telecom sector in Bangladesh is facing one of the highest tax rates in the world, which makes it harder for operators to extend even lower rates to customers and remain in business.

Out of every Tk 100 they earn, operators have to give Tk 55 to the government as tax and duties, said Kabir. “The government should revisit its whole taxation policy.”

He spoke at a panel discussion on “contribution of mobile telecom sector in Digital Bangladesh: opportunities and challenges” at the Digital Investment Summit at Radisson hotel in the city.

Speaking at the discussion, Sunil Kanti Bose, chairman of Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission, poured cold water on the demands of the mobile phone operators, as he ruled out the possibility of any abrupt changes to the tax policy in near future.

He also said the telecom taxation in Bangladesh is still much better than that of many others countries.

Bose added that the taxation policy for the telecom sector in Bangladesh is gradually improving.

The mobile phone industry invested more than Tk 84,000 crore in the last 17 years, according to data from the AMTOB, the operators’ lobbying group.

Telecom operators are also expecting a robust growth in data services in the coming days.

The country will see a huge demand in internet-based services relating to the education, health and agriculture sectors, said Rajeev Sethi, chief executive officer of Grameenphone.

He also talked about what the public and private sectors can do to bring about a faster Digital Bangladesh.

“The future of telecommunication and the national development in Bangladesh is interlinked as one can drive the other.”

Referring to various global examples, Sethi said the universal data access through mobile networks has opened up avenues for public service deliveries and data collection at incredibly low costs and with an equally incredible inclusive reach.

He called for developing local contents to get the real benefit from internet.

Shihab Ahmad, chief commercial officer of Banglalink, said mobile phone-based agricultural information service introduced by his company is contributing significantly to rural farming.

Internet use in Bangladesh has been increasing rapidly over the last several years, said Sami Kizilbash, an official of South Asia Emerging Markets at Google.

Citing a study by TNS, a leading market research and market information group, he said, of the total internet users in Bangladesh, 81 percent joined in the last five years.

About 82 percent internet subscribers use internet for social networking followed by 48 percent for news, sports and weather updates, Kizilbash added.

The first of its kind in Bangladesh, the summit was organised by Telenor Group, the majority shareholder of Grameenphone, Accenture, a technology and service outsourcing company, and Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services.

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Report: Daily Star

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