Nov 24, 2012 News
Digicel meets with President Ramotar, PM
Government has started a series of meetings with the two telephone companies in Guyana in its continued attempts to free up the telecoms sector.
A number of senior executives from Digicel’s regional offices met with President Donald Ramotar on Thursday to discuss, among other things, competitive international rates.
The National Assembly was set to start considering the Telecommunications Amendment Bill and the Public Utility Commission’s Amendment Bill 2012 on Thursday but Prime Minister, Sam Hinds, withdrew both stating that negotiations have started.
Hinds have ministerial responsibilities of the telecommunications sector.
According to a government statement late Thursday, Director of Digicel, Patrick James Mara, met President Ramotar and Prime Minister Hinds for talks regarding the company’s growing impatience at liberalisation of the international telecommunications market. Issues raised included the approval needed to offer competitive international rates.
The liberalization has been simmering now for a number of years with government intending to allow other players to step into the market.
Already, Government has sold its 20 per cent stakes in the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T), in anticipation of the liberalization.
But the process has not been all smooth sailing. GT&T which has a binding contract and monopoly on international calls has been strenuously objecting and its parent company, Atlantic Tele-Network (ATN), has even threatened to go to court.
Days before the end of the Ninth Parliament last year, Government pulled the proposed legislative changes from the National Assembly, signaling that it is consulting with GT&T and Digicel.
The Alliance For Change, too, has its own liberalization Bills. According to the party’s leader, Khemraj Ramjattan, the Bills would be withdrawn in light of the talks.
Telecommunications service providers had been given copies of the Bill to peruse and were recently informed of Government’s intention to put on hold, the second reading of the bills pending negotiations with Digicel and GT&T.
Mara, who was accompanied by Digicel Guyana’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Gregory Dean, and Caribbean Chief Operations Officer, Kevin White, was given the assurance by the President and Prime Minister that the legislation will be handled expeditiously save for any opposition impediments.
“We certainly have the President’s assurance that they want to bring liberalisation to the international market; they want to bring it quickly and that they will bring this Bill to the select committee as soon as possible with the support of the opposition groupings,” Mara said.
In July, Digicel, acting on a High Court ruling on GT&T’s monopoly, arbitrarily moved to slash international rates by 88 percent but was blocked by an injunction filed by GT&T and a reprimand from the Public Utilities Commission (PUC).
GT&T currently holds a 20-year monopoly licence for landline communication and other services, occupying shares with its parent company Atlantic Tele Network (ATN).
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