Gov’t liberalises the telecoms sector

 ─ Prime Minister Phillips announces

Two months into its term in office the Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali Administration has taken steps to liberalise Guyana’s telecommunications sector as part of the march towards further national development.

Prime Minister Hon. Brigadier (Ret’d) Mark Phillips Monday night announced that Commencement Orders had been issued, bringing into force the Telecommunications Act 2016 and the Public Utilities Commission Act 2016.

Prime Minister of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, Hon. Brigadier (R’etd) Mark Phillips

PM Phillips, who handles the telecommunications portfolio, said the historic initiative aligns the nation’s telecommunications regime to those in other countries, and will

“end a thirty-year-old anti-competitive telecommunications monopoly, that has left Guyanese weary, frustrated and lagging behind in the telecommunications arena”. 

Prime Minister Phillips was at the time addressing the nation via a live DPI broadcast.

“It is anticipated that Guyanese will feel an immediate positive impact from the implementation of these legislation, which create a modern and competitive environment for telecommunications, and which will immediately result in greater choices, better quality of service and lower prices for consumers, while at the same time ensuring that all operators continue to enjoy all benefits conferred under the old legislative regime.”

He said the legislation is consistent with Government’s vision of furthering national and regional social and economic development. It addresses the expansion of telecommunications networks and services into unserved and underserved areas through the institution of a new universal access/universal services programme. 

“The legislation creates a clear, harmonised framework and a level playing field for the sector that is currently lacking, and which are characterised by transparency and non-discrimination in the issuance and monitoring of licences and authorisations to use the spectrum, seamless interconnection and access between and among telecommunications networks and services, and price regulation where required to ensure competition and at the same time guarantees equal treatment of stakeholders, to the ultimate benefit and protection of consumers,” Prime Minister Phillips posited.

The Telecommunications Act 2016 was first laid by the PPP/C Government in the 9th Parliament in August 2011, and laid again in the 10th Parliament in 2012, after extensive consultations with both the public and operators. During the life of both Parliaments, the Act enjoyed commendable bipartisan support, the PM said. It spent considerable time before a select committee, chaired by former APNU/AFC Minister Carl Greenidge, and included Former Prime Minister Samuels Hinds, and then Minister Mohamed Irfaan Ali.

The Act was finalised before the 2015 elections and was enacted by the Coalition Government in 2016 by Minister Catherine Hughes, again with bipartisan support. The PM noted that these legislation straddled administrations, and were the subject of extensive negotiations with stakeholders which lasted nearly a decade. 

Prime Minister Phillips assured that the PPP/C Government remains willing to work with all stakeholders to ensure that every Guyanese benefit from quality and modern services. The Telecommunications (Amendment) Bill 2016 explanatory memorandum noted that “it provides for an open, liberalised and competitive telecommunications sector that will be attractive to investors, while preserving the activities of the current sector participants. By creating a competitive environment for telecommunications, the Bill is expected to (provide) greater choice, better quality of service and lower prices for consumers. The Bill also specifically addresses the (extension) of existing telecommunications networks and services into un-served and under-served areas through a new universal access/universal services programme.”

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