the Daily Star Archives


Population as a growth engine

Posted on March 10, 2010  /  0 Comments

The snap shot age distribution in a population can take three basic shapes. Pyramid is the most common in animal world where reaching the ripe old age is rare. Advances in medicine and economy have changed that in human societies. The pot shape is the best (till is lasts) as the workforce is larger with respect to the number of dependents (old and children). An urn, with a wider top and a bottom is the worst.
Talk in the Bangladesh telecom sector has been focused on taxes these days because the government had proposed a 25% tax on handsets and the retention of the controversial TK 800 tax on SIMs. These are counterproductive taxes both in terms of improving government revenues and connecting people electronically; their combined effect is to make it a lot more expensive to get connected. It’s only people who are connected who generate usage-based taxes, they are counter-productive for the government and they absolutely go against plans for a Digital Bangladesh. At the end of all the efforts to change the government’s mind, all that happened is the reduction of the handset tax. Full report in the Daily Star.
An article written by Rohan Samarajiva on Bangladesh’s proposed universal service taxes has been published in The Daily Star, Bangladesh; an excerpt follows. Bangladesh currently has the lowest mobile prices in the world and perhaps the world’s highest mobile growth rate. Pretty good, by any measure. A universal service tax can ruin the business model that has given millions of Bangladesh citizens the opportunity to get connected to an electronic network for the first time and to use telecom services at affordable prices. Instead of solving a problem, it will create one.
In December 2005 Bangladesh became connected to the SEA-ME-WE 4 undersea cable, but it took much longer for the people of Bangladesh to actually use the connectivity, because the incumbent government-owned monopoly BTTB had not been able to connect the country’s networks to the landing station in Cox’s Bazar in time. I was invited to speak on this subject at a meeting in Dhaka at which the then Minister and other senior decision makers were present (they had little alternative, there was a hartal going on outside). These comments were written up as an op ed piece and published in the Daily Star that same month. In it I recommended the following: “Without lessening the urgency of reforming Bangladesh’s regulatory framework, the immediate problem can be addressed by structurally separating the cable segment (the share of the SEA-ME-WE 4 cable, the cable station, the fibre connecting the landing station to major population centers, the redundancy channels and related facilities) from BTTB, vesting its ownership in a fully government owned company. To ensure that the new company is truly separate from BTTB and that it is efficiently managed, it is necessary to concession out its management to a competent international operator […]