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GUYANA - Gov't open to talks on telecoms liberalisation - Teixeira

The government says it is open to talks on a deadline for liberalising the telecommunications sector after a call from Digicel (Guyana) for an end date on current negotiations on the draft telecoms bill.

The invitation came from Governance Advisor Gail Teixeira on Friday at the weekly post-Cabinet news brieifing.

“I can understand their desire for a deadline but I think that’s an issue that Digicel should raise with the government, let’s sit and talk and agree to what kind of timeframe with all three partners. I assume that their announcement is their desire and not an ultimatum or threat of any kind,” she said.

According to her, it was not their intention to drag the process out but they recognised the need to have everyone comfortable with the end results.

“If Digicel has in its mind or in its corporate opinion they have a time schedule they’d like to propose the government is open to receiving it,” Teixeira said.

Chief Executive Officer of Digicel (Guyana), Gregory Dean told a year-end news conference on Thursday that while his company has been reassured that the telecommunication sector would be liberalized, government has not said when that would be done

“That is our main point. We want to have some end-date to say regardless of what negotiations are happening with which party, this is the end-date for those processes,” he said.

In the absence of a time-frame, he said companies would be unable to plan accordingly. Asked whether Digicel was being unfair by seeking to lock in the government, Dean noted that the Peoples Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) had been engaging the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T) since coming to power in 1992.

He feared that one of the parties could abuse an open-ended time-frame for negotiations. GT&T, through a 1990 agreement, still largely enjoys a monopoly on international voice and data. All international calls to and from Digicel’s network must be routed through GT&T.

Digicel hopes that the Telecommunications Bill will not result in a “heavily regulated market” or unfair advantage to existing players in the market.