Karachi, September 18, 2023 – Pakistan, facing economic challenges and foreign payment constraints, has imported mobile phones worth approximately $180 million in just two months, according to data from the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS).
This significant influx of mobile phone imports during July and August of fiscal year 2023-24 represents a 76 percent increase compared to the $102 million spent in the same period of the previous fiscal year.
Pakistan’s economic woes have led the country to seek assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) under stringent conditions to secure foreign exchange. Despite these critical balance of payment conditions, the nation continues to show a strong appetite for buying foreign products, including mobile phones.
In terms of Pakistani Rupees (PKR), the situation is even more dire, with an astonishing Rs 52 billion spent on mobile phone imports during the first two months of the fiscal year. This marks a significant increase from the Rs 22 billion spent in the corresponding months of the previous fiscal year, signifying a growth rate of 131 percent.
The recent growth of the digital financial system in Pakistan has led to a manifold increase in mobile phone usage. Recognizing the growing demand, the government announced incentives to encourage local manufacturing of mobile phones. However, mobile phone assembly units faced challenges, including a shortage of raw materials, leading to their closure.
In April 2023, the Pakistan Mobile Phone Manufacturers Association (PMPMA) issued a press release revealing the shutdown of all mobile phone assembly units in the country. Nearly all 30 mobile phone assembly units, including three foreign brands, ceased operations, resulting in approximately 20,000 sector employees being laid off due to the government’s ban on imports of all raw materials and components.
Many companies provided their employees with 50 percent advance salaries for the month of April, with the commitment to recall them once production could resume.
The PMPMA recently sent a letter to the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecom, highlighting the near depletion of local mobile supply and the severity of the situation. As a result, markets in Pakistan have started experiencing shortages of mobile phones, driving up the prices of locally assembled sets significantly.
Haji Abdul Rehman, Chairman of the Association, expressed concern in the letter that consumers are now facing higher prices for locally assembled phone sets due to these challenging conditions. The situation underscores the complex economic challenges and disruptions affecting Pakistan’s mobile phone industry.