May 03, 2015 News
Two years ago, Kaieteur News which has been reporting and raising questions over the spending of taxpayers’ monies, predicted that moves were afoot to take over the telecommunication industry.
The aim of the takeover was to enrich family and friends of Bharrat Jagdeo.
This was after evidence emerged that a number of companies with close links to the Jagdeo government were mandated to receive telecommunication licences to conduct operations in this multi-billion-dollar industry.
The telecommunication industry is described as one of the most lucrative businesses in the world.
Under the direction of former President Bharrat Jagdeo, draft telecommunications laws named E-Networks Inc., Quark Communications and Global Technology as companies that will be granted telecommunications Operator Licences when the market is liberalized.
Heading E-Network is Vishok Persaud, whose sister is Dr. Vindhya Persaud. Both are children of the late PPP executive, Dr. Reepu Persaud. Rakesh Puri of Continental Industries and Keith Evelyn, of Hand in Hand, are also included.
Quark Communications has as its directors, Winston Brassington, Jagdeo’s niece Sabrina Singh, and Brian Yong, a close friend of the former President.
A director on Global Technology’s Board is Dr. Ranjisinghi ‘Bobby’ Ramroop, Jagdeo’s best friend.
It was made clear, based also on complaints by the two current licenced telecommunication companies, Digicel and the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T), that plans were afoot also to delay the liberalization and expansion of the market to facilitate these companies, which included E-Networks and Quark Communications.
Among the nine cable operators in Guyana, seven were prevented from expanding while E-Networks and Quark Communications were allowed to expand countrywide.
It is now the stark truth that the scheme has started to become a reality, as is evident by news over a week ago that Government has handed control of the Brazil-linked fibre optic cable to a local sawmiller turned contractor, Faisal Mohamed, owner of Dax Contracting Services.
In one fell swoop, the administration allowed Dax Contracting Services access to the Brazilian fibre optic cable and structure equipment including road access, access to poles, access to repeater stations and “others” countrywide.
The entire investments by Guyana, exceed US$100M, and will allow Dax and his partners to compete with GT&T and Digicel and give Faisal Mohamed exclusive rights to the communication cable.
It will be recalled that in 2010, when GT&T landed its US$30M fibre optic cable in a joint project with Suriname, former President Bharrat Jagdeo announced that Government was bringing one at the same cost.
His administration argued, then, that the move was to put Guyana on par with the rest of the world in the Information Communications Technology (ICT) industry.
The country’s poor internet speed was singled out as the reason why development was lacking.
US$100M and counting
Between 2010 and 2014, under the National Budget, Government allocated $20B (US$100) for a number of projects. These included:
*A Brazil-linked fibre optic cable running from Lethem to Georgetown. Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Roger Luncheon, had said that the cost for procurement and laying of the cable was US$4.5. But in a paid advertisement last week, Government said the cost of US$4.5M was only for the laying of the cable.
*A US$32M networking system that includes 54 towers and a data centre stretching from Moleson Creek, Berbice to Anna Regina, Essequibo Coast.
*A US$27M One Laptop per Family project that will see 90,000 laptops distributed to poor family across the country over three years.
A US$42M transmission lines project, with a built in fibre optic cable, of the Guyana Power and Light Inc. (GPL) was also announced. This fibre optic cable stretches from Moleson Creek to Anna Regina.
Late last year, following reports in Kaieteur News, Government admitted that the Brazilian fibre optic cable was damaged before it had even become operational.
The fact that the Brazilian cable is still not in operation has held back the ambitious E-Governance project from benefiting Guyanese. Thousands of citizens have the laptops distributed by Government but no internet.
With all the attention on the ICT projects and its costs, Government announced over a week ago that it has struck a deal with Dax which had done work on the fibre optic cable in the early stages, to fix it.
According to the government, Dax Contracting Services Limited will fix the cable at no cost. However, in Clause Six of the contract, it specifically states that the Government of Guyana would undertake “to contribute financially to the cost of specific maintenance service of an emergency nature.”
The government also agreed for the contractor to use and maintain the fibre optic cable, repeater stations and equipment for a period of 25 years with the option of renewal for an additional 15 years.
Government promised to support Dax, according to the law, to obtain licences to transmit and receive data via the fibre optic cable.
Among other things, the agreement said, Dax will be provided with tax exemptions and incentives including but not limited to tax holidays; remissions; waivers and duty free concessions on importation of equipment, spares, tools and vehicles.
The contractor, according to the agreement, will be free to enter into a joint venture arrangement with any other company or entity. This includes the use of the cable to transmit and receive data and information from any part of the world.
Dax will become sole operator for the cable and granted an Operator Licence or its equivalent issued by the Government of Guyana under two conditions.
According to the agreement, these will be if Dax fully and willingly accepts the risks involved in accepting and using an Operator Licence prior to the enactment of the applicable legislation and support the Government in any response that the Government has to legally undertake in the likelihood of intervention by GT&T/ATN with regards to the granting and use of the Operator Licence.
When contacted by this newspaper last week for a comment, the contractor, Faisal ‘Dax’ Mohamed said, “Hey, hey listen, you can go and f***k yourself.” He hung up the phone immediately after.
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