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PLP calls for release of BTC agreement

BY STAFF WRITER

Guardian News Desk

The Progressive Liberal Party(PLP)yesterday called on the government to make public the Memorandum of Understanding it has reached with Cable and Wireless Communications(CWC).

The PLP said party deputy leader Philip Brave Davis and MPs Obie Wilchcombe, Dr. Bernard Nottage and Shane Gibson met yesterday with David Shaw, CEO of CWC’s Caribbean business(LIME)and Sharon Brown, the company’s local representative.

“While the meeting was extremely cordial, the opposition was disappointed that the Cable&Wireless representatives were unable to discuss the details of the Memorandum of Understanding, which has been signed with the Government of The Bahamas for the purchase of BTC,”said the PLP.

“Mr. Shaw spoke candidly about the difficulties and successes of Cable&Wireless over its 140 years in the Caribbean, but was unable to share any details of its proposed business plans for BTC and its future operations in The Bahamas,”said the PLP.

Before losing the government in May 2007, the PLP was close to selling 49 percent of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company(BTC)to Bluewater Ventures Limited for$260 million. The Free National Movement did not conclude the deal with Bluewater after it won the 2007 general election.

The unions representing workers at BTC oppose the sale to CWC. The PLP said the controlling interest in BTC should remain in Bahamian hands.

“The opposition is also disappointed that the entire process leading to the selection of Cable&Wireless to purchase 51 percent of BTC for a mere$210 million has not been transparent and(the PLP)urges the Government of The Bahamas to cease and desist from the secrecy and to make public immediately the details of the Memorandum of Understanding.”

Parliament has to approve the sale of a 51 percent stake in BTC to CWC. Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham has pledged full transparency surrounding the process.

The FNM released a statement last night in response to the PLP.

It said the contract for the sale of 51 percent of BTC is now being negotiated. When its terms are agreed and the contract has been signed, it will be publicly disclosed, added the FNM.

“It is now expected that this will take place by the end of the second week in January, 2011,”the FNM said.

CWC was unable to discuss its business plan with the opposition because it is not yet finalized, explained the governing party in response to the PLP’s criticism of the company.

“As made clear in the government’s press release advising of the signing of the MOU between the government and(CWC), the MOU provides for CWC to work with the government and the management of BTC to finalize a business plan for BTC, addressing its plans for the modernization of telecommunications throughout The Bahamas, for the development of BTC following privatization, and how service rates charged to Bahamian consumers could be reduced in the period leading up to the liberalization of cellular services,”said the FNM.

“Those discussions are now taking place.”

The FNM rejected the PLP claim that it is hiding details of the BTC sale.

“The Bahamian public may be assured that as is its custom and practice, their FNM government will make all details of the sale of 51 percent of BTC to(CWC)available to them on the same day that the contract for sale is signed,”the FNM said.

“Unlike what the PLP did with various secretive heads of agreements on a number of foreign investment projects, an accountable and transparent FNM will continue to conduct the people’s business in the sunshine.”

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