Hinds promises: tough, but fair negotiations in telecom reform

By Gitanjali Singh
Stabroek News
August 21, 2001

"We intend to be tough but at the same time fair in our negotiations with GT&T," Prime Minister Sam Hinds said yesterday as he launched the consultation paper on reforming the telecommunications sector in Guyana and introducing market reforms.

The paper, which present issues and options to reform the sector and was prepared by government's telecommunications consultant Hank Intven, also considers the breaking of the monopoly held by the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company Ltd (GT&T). It also looks at replacing GT&T's rate of return on equity with a form of incentive regulation.

Hinds yesterday noted that the changes in technologies and sentiments had gutted the agreements and licenses issued in the 1990s including those to GT&T. He said the government could have gone ahead with its reform plans and bypassed GT&T, but the government would be working for reasonable negotiations and resolution with GT&T.

He anticipated that negotiations with GT&T would commence shortly and should be concluded before a new National Telecommunications Act is tabled in parliament by yearend.

Simultaneously, Hinds cautioned that in moving to introduce market-based reforms and allowing for competition in the telecommunications sector in Guyana, what has to be faced was that cost-based prices would have to be charged.

A major issue raised by Intven in the discussion paper was the need for the government to urgently agree to a rate rebalancing plan as such a plan would finance expansion and investment in the telecommunications sector in Guyana. The paper further recommended actions to stop cross subsidisation of services via unbundling.

The discussion paper will be available to all special interest groups and stakeholders by today, Hinds said and these include the political parties in the National Assembly, GT&T, cellular service licensees, internet service providers, the Private Sector Commission, the consumer groups, the chambers of commerce, the Guyana Manufacturers' Association, the Trades' Union Congress and the Public Utilities Commission.

Additionally, the paper would be available for national consumption via a pullout in the Stabroek News and Guyana Chronicle tomorrow and will also be on the internet and available from Hinds' office.

Intven is expected during the second week of September for public consultations in the city, at New Amsterdam, Linden and Anna Regina on dates to be announced.

Based on the feedback from the discussion sessions and meetings to be held, Intven will then work with the government to prepare a position paper, which will be debated in parliament. The outcome of the debate will lead to the drafting instructions for the new laws for an open, competitive free market sector. Freeing up the telecommunications sector is expected to be achieved, with all the reforms by the end of next year.