Turnquest: ‘MOU’circulated by PLP bogus”
The”so-called”memorandum of understanding(MOU)the Progressive Liberal Party obtained and sent to the media on Tuesday is”bogus”, according to Minister of National Security Tommy Turnquest.
The PLP released what it claimed was the MOU the government signed with Cable and Wireless Communications(CWC)to sell 51 percent of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company(BTC).
While there had been speculation that the government would table the MOU in the House of Assembly yesterday, the Ingraham administration decided against that.
The government instead has decided to make the MOU public when it releases the final sales agreement with CWC, which is reportedly days away from being completed.
Several opposition members said the government’s refusal to release to the MOU is evidence that it is dealing in secrecy.
When confronted with that allegation yesterday, Turnquest denied it.
“There is no secrecy surrounding the MOU,”he toldThe Guardianoutside Parliament.”It would be brought to Parliament when an agreement is finalized. We don’t deal in secrecy.”
While the MOU was not tabled yesterday, some parliamentarians still raised the issue in the House of Assembly.
Fort Charlotte MP Alfred Sears said if the sale goes though, the government would have lost the opportunity to deepen the shareholding for Bahamians.
He accused the government of”giving away”the majority shares of a profitable company for$210 million-a figure he described as”scandalous”. The government will also receive the taxes associated with the sale.
Sears said the government has already spent nearly$150 million on the privatization process over the last several years.
“I wish a Bahamian would get a deal like this,”he said.
“Give the 51 percent of the company to Colina. I know Colina.. or give it to Commonwealth Bank. I know them.
“This is the most significant opportunity for the empowerment of Bahamians.”
Shareholders in Colina hold interests in a diverse group of financial services institutions which advised a consortium of New York Stock Exchange-listed telecommunications companies in a bid for BTC.
Sears also said the current proposal offers no immediate liberalization of the market. Under the deal, another competitor would not be allowed to enter the cellular market for three years.
Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham has said he hopes to finalize the deal by February 15.
Once the agreement is signed, the government intends to table it with the appropriate resolution.
It is the government’s intention to begin the debate on the BTC sale two weeks after that.
The sale of the shares in the company requires parliamentary approval. It is likely to spark heated debate as the Progressive Liberal Party has been vociferous in its opposition to the planned sale to CWC.
The document released by the PLP was not signed, was missing sections and was labeled as a draft.
It outlines that a voluntary workforce reduction plan must be in place prior to the sale to CWC and that the government will have to pay heavy penalties if it breaks the three-year cellular monopoly to the company.