Government appoints new telecommunications advisor

Stabroek News
June 17, 2001

The government has appointed Mr Hank Intven as the new telecommunications specialist and key advisor on the preparation and implementation of a comprehensive telecommunications policy.

Mr Intven was introduced to the press by Prime Minister Samuel Hinds at his office on Friday. A lawyer by training and current head of Canada's largest law firm, McCarthy Tetrault, the Prime Minister said he had been involved in telecommunications policy formulation and regulatory reform programmes in many developing and developed countries.

He also had experience as a regulator, having headed the telecommunications division of the CRTC, the Canadian telecommunications regulatory agency.

Intven replaces William Garrison who was the Senior Telecommunications Specialist to the Government from August 2000 to assist with policy formulation and implementation. According to Hinds, Garrison did not find it possible to complete his terms of reference under the project and tendered his resignation at the end of February this year.

At the time of Garrison's resignation most of the tasks involved in developing a policy and strategy for modernisation of the sector still remained to be completed.

The Government's modernisation of the telecommunications sector Project commenced last August and is aimed at achieving full telecommunications liberalisation before the end of 2002 as well as introducing a transparent regulatory framework that will support a liberalised market for voice, data and video services.

Hinds said that the "Project was developed as a result of the Government's recognition of the revolutionary and dynamic changes in the telecommunications industry throughout the world whereby new technologies are propelling rapid changes from monopoly arrangements to a competitive market regime."

He added that the "Project is also based on the government's recognition of the need to open the sector in Guyana so as to foster the growth and development of telecommunications and information technology intensive entrepreneurship which have the potential of leading to greater economic growth and social advantages for Guyana."

Hinds said that in implementing the project the government had publicly declared its intention to adhere to the principles of inclusiveness, openness and transparency.

He revealed that in his first three-day visit Intven and some members of the government's telecom working group assigned to the project had already met with many of the players in the telecom sector as far as time had permitted.

"These meetings constituted an opportunity to open dialogue between these stakeholders and Mr Intven and the Telecom working group," the Prime Minister said.

It was understood that the meetings included ones with the Public Utilities Commission, GT&T, the cellular licencees, and the internet service providers. A further meeting with representative bodies of the consumers such as the Guyana Consumers Association and the Consumers Advisory Bureau was also planned for later in the afternoon.

Meetings with other stakeholders in the sector have been scheduled for Intven's next visit.

Hinds promised that as the work on policy formulation proceeded and a discussion paper was prepared the government would provide opportunities for public consultation thereon through public meetings and other similar means.

He informed reporters that a Project Execution Unit under the Office of the Prime Minister had been set up for the purposes of project implementation.

This unit is located at 68 Hadfield Street, Lodge, and serves as the focal point for the purposes of project implementation.

Intven pointed out that what was required was a blueprint for all the parties to agree on which would help to move the country along in a concerted fashion.

The discussion paper, he said, would define the issues and options which were available and include recommendations as well. It would take about three to four weeks to prepare the discussion paper which would be made widely available and would serve as the focal point for initial discussions. People would be encouraged to provide their comments at any time. This could be done, for example, via e-mail. After meeting with all the stakeholders and the public Intven said that the next step would be to develop a strategy paper for the approval of cabinet.

He added that appropriate laws or amendments to laws would need to be drawn up and that studies on particular areas of the telecommunications sector will have to be commissioned. According to Hinds, modernisation under the Telecommunications Sector Project will cost US$1.5 million out of which the IMF is contributing US$1.1 million. The rest is being put up by the Guyana Government in both cash and kind.