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Guyana Parliament Approves Telecom Legislation Paving Way For Competition

Guyana Minister of Public Telecommunications, Catherine Hughes.

Guyana Parliament Approves Telecom Legislation Paving Way For Competition

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, July 19, 2016 (CMC) – Parliament has passed the Telecommunications (Amendment) Bill that the government said would, effectively, bring to an end a monopoly enjoyed by one company in the telecommunications sector.

“This legislation will allow other companies to ensure the local market offers a variety of services and benefits…including more mobile rates, land lines and a host of other internet–related services,” said Vice President and Foreign Affairs Minister, Carl Greenidge.

The government said that the legislation is in conformity with the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that governs the 15-member regional integration movement, CARICOM, which establishes an enabling environment to promote competition and fair trade.

Public Telecommunications Minister, Cathy Hughes, in winding up debate on the legislation, on Monday night, said the Bill had been allowed to remain idle for years by the former governments, while technology was changing rapidly.

“We recognise the tremendous and increasing impact that the telecommunications sector has on the advancement of economies and societies around the world. This Bill is a major breakthrough for the telecommunications sector in Guyana. It has been long promised, and I am indeed proud, to present the Bill for debate and passage by this honourable House,” Hughes stated.

She said the authorities were looking towards the creation of a telecommunications sector that is competitive and flexible enough to meet the needs of a modern, rapidly evolving technological environment.

“This transition is long overdue, our telecommunications sector must be an open one so that Guyana could progress in this area of service provision and delivery, not lag behind other sister CARICOM countries and most of the rest of the world. Let me assure this House and the nation as a whole that the Government’s focus and commitment to this process is absolute and unconditional,”

“The several clauses of the Bill have been carefully drafted and firmly established that this is a most forward-looking piece of legislation, designed to set Guyana firmly and fully on par with the most developed countries of the world in the provision of telecommunication services.”

She reminded legislators that it was former President, Bharrat Jagdeo, who in 2010, closed down all the cable systems and, later, re-opened the sector to allow family members of an opposition legislator to benefit from the industry.

Former Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce, Irfaan Ali, said his party is desirous of having the Bill sent to a select committee, since members have several concerns with the way it is written.

Ali explained that the Bill gives too much power to the Minister and instead, it should be placed in the agency that will be established to manage the sector.

“While it allows for the liberalisation, it must not create a new monster by the power it gives to the Minister, and I think I have outlined, very clearly, the mischief in this Bill, in relation to the powers granted to the Minister, and I think we have a responsibility in taking this necessary open step to liberalisation, to re-look at this bill in a special select committee, to correct the deficiencies in relation to the powers granted to the Minister,” Ali stated.

The vote on the legislation came after the Bill had been sent to a special select committee of Parliament.

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