Nepalis have to wait months to get passports to go abroad for study or work, and when they return their mobile phones will likely not function. It seems the Nepal government is making it as difficult as possible for its citizens just to benefit some businesses.
From 1 January, the Nepal Telecommunications Authority was planning to implement its Mobile Device Management System (MDMS) that requires passengers landing in Nepal to register their phones, and pay taxes on their second mobiles.
The announcement was greeted by outrage on social media, with the state-run agency being accused of allowing mobile phone importers to make a larger profit. Reacting to public pressure, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal instructed the NTA on Friday not to implement the MDMS just as yet.
The announcement is still there, officials at NTA said, but it has just been postponed at the prime minister’s request. If the MDMS is implemented, any new mobile phone being brought into the country by Nepalis or foreigners will not work after 15 days unless the user goes through the tedious process of registering it at the airport.
The NTA said it decided on the measure to stop the smuggling and sale of devices and also for security reasons. It has partially implemented MDMS, and was planning to make it mandatory for all new imported phones from 1 January.
“We have waited 5-6 years to bring the MDMS into operation, and the sole purpose is to allow stolen and lost phones to be tracked, and to increase government tax revenue,” the NTA’s Santosh Poudel said. There is no indication when the rule will now be put into force.
But for now, Nepalis returning from abroad and foreigners will still be allowed to bring only one mobile phone, and are taxed for every extra one. If MDMS had been implemented on 1 January, they would have had to line up after arrival at the airport to register even their single phone.
For the second phone they will have to pay 5% excise duty and 13% VAT. If passengers are found to have more than two phones, the devices will be confiscated and auctioned, the NTA warned.
At a time when Nepal’s new government is under pressure to streamline the difficult and lengthy process to get passports, driving licenses and other permits, the announcement (below) about the MDMS angered many — especially in the diaspora.
‘The next thing you know they will start forcing us to fly only Nepal Airlines,’ wrote one angry Nepali migrant worker abroad. ‘There is no point going back to a country that gives us so much trouble.’
‘In the name of stopping smuggling, they are helping Nepal’s biggest smugglers,’ wrote another.
Past governments are accused of benefiting selected businesses and importers — just like this year’s budget revised tax laws for electric vehicles that were favourable only for one or two importers.