Critics of GT&T overlook its achievements
Stabroek News
February 9, 2002

Dear Editor,

I wish to take issue publicly with Ramdial Bhookmohan who was extremely critical of the two existing utilities in Guyana, namely GPL (formerly GEC) and GT&T (formerly Guyana Telecoms and Cable & Wireless Guyana Ltd). He is definitely on the right course when he speaks of the dismal if not disastrous performance of GPL and in this regard he can join the rest of the suffering public in thrashing the Irish lads running GPL on behalf of the Commonwealth Development Corporation & the Electricity Supply Board of Ireland. The public will have no legal recourse here whatsoever because those running the affairs of this country have bargained away all checks and balances by agreeing to place GPL outside of the scrutiny of the local Public Utilities Commission (PUC). This is defintely a first in the entire world because not even Florida Power & Light or ConEdison can operate without the regulatory oversight of their respective state bodies.

However, I am at variance with Mr. Bhookmohan when he publicly chastizes GT&T over its ill perceived lack of progress. Evidently, the telecoms operator may have missed a few targets in terms of line exapansion but the flip side clearly points to some amazing technological achievements that they delivered to Guyana just after privatization. These will serve to


(a) International Direct Dialling versus the long wait experienced by businesses and households to complete an overseas call.

(b) The complete upgrading of their various exchanges from analog to digital thereby increasing the call completion ratios and improving audio quality. This is good for data centric applications.

(c) The expansion of the number of local access lines from under 8,000 to more than 50,000 within just a few years. The Alex de Tocqueville Institution praised Guyana for having the highest teldensity and the lowest basic line charge in the whole of Latin America & the Caribbean.

(d) The installation of next generation Nortel DMS switches.

(e) The deployment of an asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) backbone thereby immeasurably improving the existing switching, signalling and latency platforms.

(f) Investing huge sums as a direct shareholder in the Americas II cable system. This has improved the capacity available to GT&T in terms of bandwidth as result of dense wavelength division multiplexing or DWDM. This places the advantages and benefits of optical networking squarely at the doors of Guyana thanks to GT&T's vision and commitment.

(g) GT&T played a pivotal role in bringing the Internet to Guyana by creating the gateway required to access the World Wide Web.

Clearly, Mr. Bhookmohan and other misguided critics of GT&T including the Government of Guyana are not in sync with the fact that basic line rental or charges in Guyana are well below that of $2.50 US per month for homes and below $5.00 US per month for businesses. It costs GT&T in excess of $1,000 US to run new lines into new areas and with its meagre return on line investments just when will they ever be able to recoup this capital expenditure. Evidently, neither the Government of Guyana nor Mr. Bhookmohan have ran a telecoms business so it is easy to heap criticism from outside without realizing the difficult challenges posed from within.

There is indeed growing recognition for an open telecoms sector due to the challenges placed by the World Trade Organisation and supported by the International Telecoms Union and even GT&T publicly recognises this. However, these things need to be accomplished within a framework of respect, fairness, understanding and due process but the recent high handed actions of the various stakeholders such as the consumers group, the chambers of commerce and the government do leave a lot to be desired. GT&T, has invested about US100 million since 1991 in the improvement of the local telecoms sector when most other global operators would have shied away completely from Guyana for obvious reasons.

The situation in the telecoms sector is fast spiralling out of control and it is about time that these negotiations take place in an atmosphere that is not fraught with threats and disrespect for due process. If the Government of Guyana really wants GT&T to leave then simply pay them for their investments over the years including their guranteed rights of return of no less than 15% on the remaining years of guranteed sole operator rights and I am certain that Neil Prior will be happy to take his investments elsewhere. I am sure that he can definitely do without the rigmarole and stress that doing business under the current conditions places upon an individual.

Yours faithfully,

Mike Singh