Govt has no plan to privatise post office -Hinds

Stabroek News
November 18, 2002

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Government has no intention of privatising the Guyana Post Office Corporation (GPOC), Prime Minister Samuel Hinds declared yesterday in answer to a question at a management retreat held at the corporation's business centre on Lamaha Street.

Hinds who addressed the gathering at the closing session of a two-day retreat, was responding to a question posed to him by Assistant Postmaster General, Noel Phillips as to whether his government has plans to privatise the corporation. The PM said "I think we all need to be better off and this is something we all must give serious thought to." However, the Prime Minister who has ministerial responsibility for the corporation assured the staff that there is no such plan by government, since the corporation's economic activities cannot attract foreign investment.

Phillips' question which was endorsed by scores of senior staff who attended the retreat came in the wake of a review of the corporation that is being conducted by a New Zealander. Hinds explained to the employees that government is very concerned about the operations at the corporation and in an effort to improve the efficiency of staff and the agency as a whole the review was planned. He added that should the review point to the privatisation of the corporation then it would be the most logical step. Hinds said at present the corporation was not very profitable and as such management has to look in other directions in order to generate income. Stabroek News understands that many senior officers of the corporation had been uneasy since the New Zealander arrived in the country and began conducting the review. Phillips asked yesterday, "what are we to think with the presence of Miss Staple (the New Zealander)? Is the corporation going to be privatised?"

The Prime Minister answered him by saying that the corporation could not make the kind of profits like in other countries and it would not help the state if the GPOC is to be privatised.

The Prime Minister called on the staff yesterday to keep up with the times. "We must strive for a profitable postal service." He warned the officers that the corporation's future can only be prosperous if they save more. He said profitability, cost recovery, savings and investment are the areas which the corporation would have to now look into if it is to survive in the business world.

Staff yesterday expressed dissatisfaction at the current postal rates which they said have resulted in them not being able to get a salary increase for some time now. The workers said that the corporation charges $30 for transhipping one piece of mail from Guyana to the USA for customers but ends up paying some $70 to complete the process. Asked what was the government's position on the two issues Hinds said with regards to the postal rates he had raised the issue with cabinet and at present a proposal for an increase in the rates is being studied. He cautioned, though, that while the issue is a pressing one, the corporation needs to take into serious consideration the impact an increase in postal rates would have on customers.

On the issue of pay, Hinds told the workers that there is sympathy for an increase in wages and salaries for them, but if there is going to be any increase government must be convinced that there is sufficient efficiency and control at the corporation. He said that at present government is more concerned about reviewing the corporation's operations so that it can decide on the way forward. According to Hinds, it is time management goes after a more modern GPOC, one which is free from corruption. He said workers have to focus more on their work in detail and find innovative ways of doing their respective jobs. He acknowledged that the corporation had made some progress over the years, but cautioned that there is still more to be done, adding that tours by him to the Mahdia and Ituni post offices revealed that both buildings were in a sorry state.

Hinds called on management to fully utilise the corporation's properties countrywide, saying that buildings owned by the corporation that are not fully utilised can be rented to businessmen thereby earning the corporation extra money. He observed that there are many activities that are being carried out at the corporation's Robb Street location which can be shifted elsewhere to make room for such ventures. The prime minister said he had confidence that the current staff has the ability to move the postal service to a higher level.

The retreat which was held under the theme "striving for a modern and efficient postal service" focused on enhancing human resources, expertise and improving the quality of service offered to customers. Among those who attended were senior and junior managers, chief postmasters, senior clerks and operations personnel. (Nigel Williams)

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