Maynard-Gibson blasts govt on BTC sale
Opposition Senate Leader Allyson Maynard-Gibson yesterday slammed the government for taking steps to sell a majority stake of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company(BTC)to a foreign entity, while calling on the Utility Regulations and Communications Authority(URCA)to ensure the details of the$210 million dollar deal are made public.
Maynard-Gibson accused the government of giving away a national asset, which she said should be controlled by Bahamians as it impacts national security.
“We on this side are listening for the voice of URCA in disagreement with the Memorandum Of Understanding(MOU). The MOU should be tabled now. It is in the public domain. It relates to a major vital public asset, and we are hearing about the matter from the investor and not from our elected officials. This is wrong. The government ought to table the MOU promptly,”Gibson said while addressing her colleagues in the Upper Chamber on amendments to the URCA Bill.
Last month the government announced that it had signed a MOU with Cable and Wireless Communications(CWC)related to sale of a 51 percent stake in BTC for$210 million.
But yesterday Maynard-Gibson alleged that the purchase price is far less than what the Bahamian public is being told.
“The true price is not$210 million. From what we have been able to glean the government has agreed to guarantee a short fall in the pension plan which is about$67 million, and in calculating the real price we should deduct from the sale price the$1.9 million plus legal costs that had to be paid to Bluewater by the government, the result of their stopping and cancelling the Bluewater contract,”Maynard-Gibson said.
“They should also deduct the considerable consultancy fees and legal fees that have been paid in respect of the privatization effort as well. Until the MOU is tabled, we would not know the true cost in dollars and cents of this privatization, but it is being said that the price for BTCis well below$100 million. And I have heard figures as low as$50 million,”the PLP senator claimed.
The Progressive Liberal Party recently railed against the sale price of the local telecommunications company. According to party officials, the former PLP government negotiated a sale price of$260 million for 49 percent of BTC to Bluewater, a company the government has charged does not have any real experience in the telecommunications industry.
She claimed that the government’s stop, review and cancel policy has disadvantaged Bahamians.
While acknowledging that BTC’s service can and ought to be better, Senator Maynard-Gibson said the government should not have to sell the controlling interests to get better service.
Additionally, she alleged that once the company is sold Bahamians would start paying for local calls. However, Government Senate Leader Dion Foulkes dismissed the claim, charging that the rates will remain the same as they are today.