Government ready to move unilaterally on telecoms reform
Stabroek News
February 5, 2002

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

Speaking with reporters at yesterday's post Cabinet briefing at the Office of the President, Cabinet Secretary, Dr Luncheon said that the government had been ready to initiate the reforms for quite some time and had communicated its readiness to GT&T even in 2001.

"The ideal would be for government and GT&T/ATN to sit down across the table and commence negotiations, a practice that has been set in telecommunications reform in our sister CARICOM countries and have had meaningful results."

However, Luncheon said that in the event that this did not happen, the government has explored the option of proceeding unilaterally and "all the accompanying decisions have been made to give that possibility [unilateral action] government's sanction and the best possibility of success."

The Cabinet Secretary said that he was not prepared to set a timeframe for GT&T. "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 mind set in the management of GT&T, then certainly the government's insistence and prompting might just be the straw that breaks the camel's back."

However, Luncheon stressed "we are hoping that we can indeed sit across the table with GT&T and commence the negotiations but we are prepared were that eventuality not to take place to move ahead unilaterally."

Luncheon's remarks were made in response to statements attributed to GT&T linking its preparedness to commence negotiations with the government on telecommunications reform to the resolution of its submission for a rebalancing of its rates. The submission was made following the reduction of the accounting rates mandated by the US Federal Communications Commission. GT&T/ATN had tried to delay the introduction of the planned reduction but their application was denied.

Cabinet had noted GT&T's statement linking the beginning of negotiations with the government to the resolution of its submission to the Public Utilities Commission for a rebalancing of its rates, Luncheon said. He added: "Cabinet expressed clearly its position that:

* the telecommunications sector will be reformed;

* ideally the government of Guyana and GT&T/ATN should negotiate the relevant elements of the reform; and most importantly

* the Government of Guyana neither accepts nor offer linkage in its reach out for negotiations with GT&T."