The controversial issues of the past week
This past week saw criticisms of Chief Justice Ian Chang and calls for the blood of Police Commissioner Henry Greene. I also saw two criticisms directed at me for the column I wrote last week. Someone posted on a website that I was an intellectual who had come to the defence of Henry Greene because we went to the same school.
I would add that he is my friend, but that does not prevent me from criticizing him. I have taken him to task over many issues during his tenure as police commissioner.
Indeed, one woman who responded to that blog was correct when she said that she never considered me an intellectual. I am not and I have never been. She then made a comment that I had tried to destroy the reputation of the woman involved in the Henry Greene debacle.
I hasten to say that anything I say about an issue is the truth. In this country we have a way of favouring the person who comes up against authority. I have documentation to prove that whatever I said about the woman was the truth. I did not even worry to write about some of the more sordid aspects of her character.
But I am surprised that some of the comments about the law came from people who profess to be upright and are the defenders of the poor and downtrodden. I think I have said enough on this particular issue, because the people being attacked can defend themselves better than I could.
There are other pressing issues. One of these has to do with the sale of the shares the government held in the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company. When the Guyana Telecommunications Corporation was privatized, Government retained twenty per cent of the shares.
Those shares turned out to be a money spinner, because each year they contributed some $500 million to the national coffers. That was money coming in for doing nothing. We keep talking about making money for national needs. For example, the National Insurance Scheme is taking in less from contributors than it has to pay out.
The result is that it has had to invest in many things. Some of these investments are providing interest and one was lost to Clico—a lot of money.
When I asked Dr Roger Luncheon about the sale, he said that there were US$30 million reasons. And indeed, ready cash is better than anything. It would have taken twelve years at today’s rate of return to make that kind of money. Of course, the value of that money would have decreased.
However, after a study of the situation, I found that the government was saying that its return would diminish, because of its very investment in the communication business. The government is laying a communication cable equivalent to the one that the local telephone company has already installed and which has surplus capacity.
The government will be issuing all the services. In short, it will be in direct competition with GT&T. For example, the One Laptop Per Family Programme would be getting its internet connection from the government. At $5,000 a month and with 90,000 computers, the government would be raking in $45 million each month. GT&T would not make that money.
The government would also be providing other services that the country needs. For example, all the systems would be connected. A policeman could get all the information on a vehicle using some little instrument and the information would be provided in real time. No need to wait until the Licence Revenue Office opens its doors.
Then there are the security services connected to the various homes by a cable that is government-owned. GT&T would not be making money from these ventures. The government knows this and recognizes that its earnings from its 20 per cent shares would be diminished.
Why is this happening? I believe that it has something to do with shattering the GT&T monopoly. The GT&T has a monopoly on landlines and for some time now the government has been trying to smash this monopoly. There is more. I believe that the government is going to sell parts of its communication system to private operators who would then get into the cellular market.
There is a limit to the number of cell phone users in this country. At present, GT&T and Digicel have a combined subscriber base of just over 400,000. When the government gets involved, it is going to lower the rates. There would be a mad rush away from these two providers. Government may therefore become the largest communication provider. Surely the money it was getting from GT&T would be reduced.
But the buyer may know something that the rest of us do not. He is Chinese and I cannot help note that in recent times the Chinese have been making their presence felt in this country. They are into every major construction to be undertaken in this country. They are becoming the kingpins.
Perhaps being aware of the changes in the telecommunication the buyer knows that there is still money to be made.