`Guyana open to business’
-- Digicel CEO By Mark Ramotar
Guyana Chronicle
February 17, 2007

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DIGICEL Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Tim Bahrani, says he would like to inform the international business community that “Guyana is a country that is open to business”, and the mega-launch here of the giant telecommunications company is testimony to this favourable investment climate.

Speaking at the V.I.P. Reception at Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel in Georgetown Thursday night to celebrate Digicel’s arrival in Guyana, Bahrani lauded the Guyana Government for creating and promoting the kind of environment that will attract foreign investments.

“Digicel’s launch in Guyana would not have been possible without the support the company received from the Guyana Government (that) has laid the foundation for an environment that allows efficient processing and business practices,” Bahrani told the special invitees.

President Bharrat Jagdeo, in his remarks at the reception, welcomed the comments by Bahrani, and reiterated his government’s commitment to promoting investments here that can catapult Guyana on its current development path.

“I am very pleased that Mr. Bahrani said Guyana is open to do business. It is good when it comes from others because sometimes people’s view of Guyana, especially in the external world, is not one that we all subscribe to, but is one that we would like to change because it is largely negative,” the President said

Mr. Jagdeo also said he is “very excited” about the future of Guyana and alluded to several major investments involving foreign companies that are taking place in Guyana at present.

“Just a few days ago, we gave clearance to one of China’s largest calcined bauxite producer for their participation here in the bauxite industry in Guyana and we signed a Letter of Intent with RUSAL, which is the largest aluminum company in the world today, to focus on a multi-billion-dollar project…for the development of a large hydro and aluminum smelter. And over the next several months we see some major investments in the tourism sector (which are now in the final stages of negotiations), so I am very excited about the future of this country.”

With regards to the arrival in Guyana of leading mobile telephone network provider in the Caribbean, Digicel, President Jagdeo - whose administration has been vigorously pushing for the liberalization of the sector and having competition on the market - noted that this is a “huge investment” and one that will be followed by further liberalisation in the telecommunications sector here.

“I want to welcome Digicel to Guyana and I hope that we would be able to work with Digicel over the next several years because we see them as a long term partner in implementing the ICT (Information Communication Technology) programme for Guyana and we will welcome their participation and their expertise.”

Bahrani said he welcomed the comments by Prime Minister Samuel Hinds at the Wednesday launch of the Digicel store at City Mall in Georgetown, where he stated: “We have the draft laws and policies in place and in the next four to six weeks, we’ll have negotiations with GT&T and ATN towards full liberalization.”

Bahrani also lauded the assurances by the Prime Minister that the “government is determined in this period to have fully open telecommunications”.

According to him, this is key to the government’s ongoing telecommunications liberalization efforts, in bringing the true benefits to the people of Guyana.

“Fifty Digicel stores opened their doors (Wednesday) morning to what can only be described as a simply amazing welcome from the people of Guyana,” Bahrani said.

“Digicel has committed US$60M in building a state of the art network in Guyana (and) we have partnered with world leading GSM provider, Erickson, to bring coverage to areas in Guyana that have never had it before.”

He said over the coming weeks, there will be “vast improvements” in coverage at Lethem, and new coverage in the remote Mabaruma area in Region One.

Digicel Vice Chairman, Mr. Leslie Buckley, said “Guyana is now our fourth largest market in the Digicel Group and a market we believe that beckons a huge opportunity for growth”.

President Jagdeo evoked both laughter and applause from the audience when he told Buckley later, that although Guyana may be the fourth largest market at the moment, “I am telling you that it is going to become the most profitable market, knowing Guyanese and how much we talk.”

Buckley said Digicel’s aim is to revolutionize people’s experience of mobile telecommunication and “raise the bar” in all aspects of business, making a significant positive impact on the quality and standard of service and customer care across Guyana.

“Strong words and high promises you may say, but I can assure you we bring to Guyana a proven track record in bringing real positive change across the Caribbean region.”

“Our strategy is quite simple – at Digicel the customer is king and queen,” Buckley asserted.

“Digicel has been looking forward to this day for quite a while so it’s very special to share this milestone surrounded by so many of our Guyanese friends here tonight.”

“As you know our sponsorship of West Indies cricket and the Digicel Caribbean Cup (football) have made us frequent visitors to Guyana, but now we have established roots here and I am happy to call Guyana a Digicel home,” declared Buckley, one of the founding members of Digicel and an experienced telecoms expert.

“The unfailing warm welcome we have always received from the people of Guyana has never disappointed us; rather it has further increased our excitement to be launching our services and brand here.”

“Tonight we welcome a new era of mobile telecommunications in Guyana – a new era where more and more people in Guyana will now be able to access and use the highest quality service and the most advanced mobile technology in their day to day lives.”

Buckley also thanked President Jagdeo, Prime Minister Hinds and the government for “sharing a vision for Guyana” and “putting their confidence in Digicel in helping to achieve these goals”.

“We look forward to continuing our fruitful relationship with the cooperative government of Guyana.”