PM Phillips lauds Govt’s achievements

-no VAT on mobile phones, telecoms liberalisation a boon for investors

Prime Minister Hon. Brigadier (ret’d) Mark Phillips says the Government has made significant headway in rolling out programmes it pledged to start on the hustings, and it is on track to meeting several year-end goals in the telecommunications and other sectors.

Prime Minister, Hon. Brigadier (ret’d) Mark Phillips

Prime Minister Phillips said the Government removed value-added tax (VAT) on mobile phones in the Emergency Budget 202o, among other measures, then on October 5, it liberalised the telecommunications sector.  The Prime Minister made these statements in response to a question posed by Opposition Member of Parliament, Hon. Devin Sears during the 14th sitting of the National Assembly on Wednesday.  

MP Sears asked the Prime Minister if he supports the need to reduce VAT on data, given the necessity of online learning due to Covid. He also asked why the Government had not operationalise Act No. 18 of 2016 to liberalise the telecommunications sector to create competition in data services, especially the internet.

“As outlined in the PPP/C manifesto, the removal of VAT on data is a commitment which was made to the people of Guyana and like the many other promises that were already fulfilled in just two months of assuming office. Our Government can also deliver on this,” the Prime Minister responded.

He reminded MP Sears that the Government’s liberalisation of the telecommunications sector ended a 30-year monopoly.  The move, he noted, will draw investors, create employment and a modern and competitive environment that will benefit consumers.

Further, the Prime Minister said, “The Telecommunications Act No. 18, 2016 was part of the commencement order issued as published in the official Gazette dated October 5 2020, thus being operationalise contrary to what was being asked.”

Currently, Guyana’s two major telecommunications companies, Digicel and Guyana Telephone and Telegraph (GTT) provide about 90 to 95 per cent data coverage services. As of December 31, 2019, Digicel had 392,330 subscribers while GTT had 234,947 as of June 30, 2020.

Based on the last quarterly reports submitted on June 30, the total number of subscribers utilising DSL from GTT is 50,942 while subscribers to the fibre optic connection number 25,544.

The Telecommunications Act 2016 was first laid by the PPP/C Government in the 9th Parliament in August 2011, and again in the 10th Parliament in 2012, after extensive consultations.

It was then finalised before the 2015 elections and passed by the Coalition Government in 2016 by the then Minister of Public Telecommunications, Mrs. Catherine Hughes. However, the coalition government only brought parts of the Act into force in 2018 and 2019.