Laing: PLP a danger to telco sector liberalization
By Taneka Thompson
Guardian Senior Reporter
The government's proposed renationalization of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) could jeopardize the planned liberalization of the sector, according to Senator Zhivargo Laing.
He said, while a guest on the radio talk show "Jeffrey" on Star 106.5 FM yesterday, BTC would not be able to compete in an open environment if the company was owned by the government.
"If the government comes to own 100 percent shares of BTC, the government would be a less formidable competitor in a liberalized environment and therefore BTC gets to suffer," the former Marco City MP said.
The last Free National Movement (FNM) administration sold 51 percent of BTC to Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC). The government owns 49 percent of the company. The governing Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) has pledged to regain a majority stake in the company on the behalf of the Bahamian people.
"If you buy it back and put it in government's hands you may have to relook at the issue of liberalization altogether. It's the liberalization that will bring the broad gains to the economy," argued Laing.
The majority stake in BTC was sold in April 2011 and the company will retain its cellular monopoly until 2014.
Laing also said the deal was not irreversible, as has been suggested by former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham. He added that as long as CWC is willing to sell its shares to the government, a deal could take place.
However, Laing said remarks members of the PLP made before and after the sale that the former administration sold BTC at a fire sale price could haunt the government at the negotiating table.
"Essentially what you have said to the people you now want to negotiate the buyback of these shares from is what you are holding, you bought at a discount," said Laing.
"It's more valuable than you bought it for but I now want to buy it back from you. That's a terrible position to be in, and I think that is harmful to the public interest."
Last month BTC experienced a nationwide system failure that affected more than 300,000 landline, mobile and Internet subscribers.
That same day Christie met with CWC CEO Tony Rice. The PLP leader said the system shutdown was further evidence why the company should not have been sold to CWC.
© 2012 The Freeport News