What is a monopoly’s place in a democracy?
The Guyana telephone and telegraph company (GT&T) has enjoyed a monopoly for over twenty years extracting super profits out of ordinary Guyanese. They may say that’s a small price to pay to update a dilapidated telecommunication infrastructure which existed in Guyana when GT&T took over the firm or is it?
Now the world has moved on and Guyana has moved on to the point where a significant amount of us own a cell phone.
Before the other telecommunication services entered the cell phone market Guyanese had to pay above average cost for cell phone use. GT&T even had draconian pricing rules where we were made to pay for per minute billing as oppose to per second billing which we now enjoy, thanks to competition in the industry. GT&T contract has come to an end.
GT&T had been paid handsomely for their involvement in Guyana ’s communication development and it time for them to let go and allow Guyanese to enjoy true economic freedom. Sadly this reality is being ignored by GT&T.
A monopoly is where a single firm, in this case GT&T, operates in an industry. GT&T has exclusive rights over our telecommunication networks with cell services being the exception. In a democracy freedom is a central tenant and economic freedom is included in this mantra. With the existence of a monopoly economic freedom is not possible. It constrains individual freedom to invest in whatever market one chooses to. In Guyana economic freedom does not exist. GT&T has a strangle hold on our VIOP service and this has serious economic implications for Guyana ’s future development.
Without competition this industry will be less efficient and Guyanese consumers will continue to be shafted by paying through their noses for telecommunication services.
These costs can hinder small business development as it has implications on their profits. One area of exceptional entrepreneurship among Guyanese youth is investing in internet cafés. These have sprung up in every little part of Georgetown and wider a field. Some of these entrepreneurs are young ambitious men and women, the kind we have been trying to develop over the years and GT&T aggressive stance on killing these small businesses off is intolerable and morally repugnant.
These small businesses have to fight there own concern with this giant of an organisation. The government of Guyana has sat ideally by, failing to protect our young entrepreneurs. No one is coming to their aid.
There is a vulnerability of national security with a monopoly own telecommunication institution that has foreign owners. In the US currently the senate have serious concerns about foreign players in their telecommunication industry.
We should take note of this issue as Canada has done recently raising concerns about foreign institutions that may have ulterior motive in this sensitive industry. Guyanese businesses are potentially wide open to intellectual thieft of their business plans and creativity. I am not aware of any checks and balances the government have in place to ensure that out intellectual property are safe from cyber theft.
Every single piece of communication that involves the internet and landline as well as most cell phones is routed through GT&T. There is a potential for misuse and abuse of private information. We should note this weakness and address it. Our government and parliamentarians are no exception to this vulnerability. This should be the impetus for them to ensure Guyana businesses including government business are safe.
It is time for this monopoly to end. This abuse of economic power has no place in a democracy and for where Guyana is now there is no need for such a market structure. GT&T should be welcome to continue to trade in Guyana but not under the current market arrangement. The industry should be opened up to welcome all those who dare.
Government should ensure that there are regulations to curb any market abuse of the telecommunication industry. New entrants to this industry should be enabled to grow to become competitive enough where they can stand on their own.
More new entrants will certainly increase competition and therefore will drive down price and increase available choice of services to Guyanese consumers. It’s not best for the Guyanese public and is certainly not good for Guyanese business. Government should address this issue and let true economic freedom rain in Guyana
Just a thought, what is the incentive for government to continue with this market structure?