Despite promising a fully liberalized telecommunication sector by the first quarter of 2018, Public Telecommunications Minister, Cathy Hughes declined to give a specific timeline on when exactly the monopoly held by Guyana Telephone Telegraph Company (GTT) will be broken.
What the Minister did say, during the sidelines of an event on Monday, is that the date for the full liberalization of the public telecommunications sector has been pushed back to a end of 2018.
Hughes told the media that this extra delay is as a result of other issues that had to be reviewed which surround the final document.
She however, refuted the reports of the process being completed until 2020.
Nevertheless, the Minister has assured that she will be in a position to deliver the liberalization by the new timeline that was scheduled.
Earlier this year, Minister Hughes had reported that negotiations with GTT and its parent company Atlantic Tele-Network International (ATNI) for the lifting of the monopoly on the telecommunications sector have been fruitful, adding that one needs to take into context that the companies have had the upper hand for over 20 years.
She added that both companies and the government want to leave the negotiating table with the best deal.
“The negotiations to date have been conducted in an extremely cordial manner. If you recognize that GTT and ATNI have had a monopoly situation that have lasted for over 20 years then you can understand that from the perspective of both parties they want to ensure that they are coming to table to get the best…at the end of the day on the government side we want to ensure that we get the deal that is going to be good for the people of Guyana,” she said.
“The GRA had wanted to make sure that they are covering all their bases from the financial end from taxes that would have been paid, from things that could be offered to the sector as a whole so therefore the focus is not on getting this done in the shortest space of time but making sure that we come up with an end gain that suits everyone,” Hughes added.
The liberalization of the sector is heavily dependent on the settlement of a US$41.1M tax claim against GTT.
As it relates to the tax issue, ATNI said that GTT has been involved in several legal claims regarding its tax filing with the GRA dating back to 1991 regarding the deductibility of intercompany advisory fees as well as other tax assessments.
However, the company notes that should it be held liable for any of the disputed tax assessments, totaling US$41.1M, the company is of the view that the government would then be obligated to reimburse it for any amounts necessary to ensure a no less than 15 per cent return on investment.