Luncheon stresses Government stand on telecoms reform
THE Government has reiterated its position on reforming the telecommunications sector
Guyana Chronicle
February 7, 2002

"The telecommunications sector will be reformed", Head of the Presidential Secretariat and Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Roger Luncheon stressed at a news conference Monday.

He said the Government is prepared to proceed unilaterally with reforms in the telecommunications sector, but its preferred option is to negotiate the changes with the monopoly Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company Ltd (GT&T) and its parent company, Atlantic TeleNetwork (ATN).

Cabinet has reviewed the current situation in the sector and noted that negotiations have not yet started between the Government and GT&T/ATN, he said.

According to him, it has been reported that GT&T/ATN was on record stating that the commencement of such negotiations would be based on the resolution of its rate re-balancing matter before the watchdog Public Utilities Commission (PUC).

But Luncheon said Cabinet has expressed clearly its position: that the telecommunications sector will be reformed; that ideally the Government of Guyana and GT&T/ATN should negotiate those relevant elements of the reform; and most importantly, that the Government of Guyana neither accepts nor offers any linkage in its reach out for negotiations with GT&T.

"We have been ready to negotiate or commence the negotiations for quite some time and I believe our readiness was communicated to GT&T even in 2001," he told reporters at the Office of the President.

He pointed out too that the ideal situation would be for the Government and GT&T/ATN to sit down across the table and commence negotiations, a practice that has been set in the telecommunications reform in other Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries and has had meaningful results.

"But we are not unmindful that this situation might not eventuate along those lines, and indeed the option of the Government proceeding unilaterally has also been explored and all the accompanying decisions have been made to give that possibility of Government sanction and the best possibilities of success," Luncheon said.

He said he was not prepared at this time to "issue a deadline to GT&T beyond which we would undertake unilateral interventions".

"I am certain that the developments in the sector, both regulatory and the consequential financial and commercial changes, if they have not as yet created the right mindset of the management of GT&T, then certainly the Government's insistence encountered might just be the straw that breaks the camel's back."

"So we are hoping that we can indeed sit across the table with GT&T and commence the negotiation but we are also prepared for that eventuality not to take place, in moving ahead unilaterally," he added.