The telecom operators have expressed frustration as the proposed budget has not taken any positive steps for them.
They had urged the government to reduce the Tk 300 SIM tax and 15 percent value added tax on internet use, but the government has continued with the existing tax regime.
In addition, it has slapped a new Tk 100 tax on every SIM card replacement.
“The new tax on SIM replacement will complicate matters for mobile users,” said TIM Nurul Kabir, secretary general of Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh.
“We hoped for something positive from the current government as mobile is a significant enabler of the government's vision for a Digital Bangladesh. But we are frustrated.”
It would have been helpful for the government if it had exempted the SIM tax as the number of mobile users would increase and it could earn greater revenues, Kabir added.
At the same time, the proposed 15 percent VAT on mobile handset imports, rising from 10 percent at present, will increase the prices of the imported devices.
Faisal Alim, vice president of Bangladesh Mobile Phone Importer's Association, said, “It will encourage the import of handsets through illegal channels.”
Government revenues will fall as fewer handsets will be imported through formal channels and foreign currency reserves will be affected, he added.
The moves contradict the government's vision for 2021, said Alim.
Mobile handsets will go out of the reach of the lower income groups in rural areas, which are the main target of the operators at present, said Kabir of the operators' association.
However, the finance ministry has proposed to reduce the supplementary duty on SIM cards from 20 percent to 15 percent.