The Ministry of Information and Communications (MoIC) in Nepal has accused the Finance Ministry for delays in launching a plan to find a strategic partner for state-owned incumbent Nepal Telecom (NT), the Himalayan News Service writes. MoIC secretary Surya Prasad Silwal is quoted as saying that the ministry of finance and its appointed privatisation committee are entirely responsible for the situation, which is ultimately hurting cash-strapped NT. According to Surya Prasad Silwal, the ministry-led committee should have held a meeting to take a decision on privatising public enterprises, but has failed to do so ‘due to finance minister Barshaman Pun’. The official goes on to say that the finance minister is strong on pledges when it comes to setting up meetings at the earliest opportunity, but that his heel-dragging has left the quest to find a strategic partner for NT in limbo. ‘NT is in dire need of a strategic partner but all politicians and MoIC officials have been milking NT and are reluctant to implement any reform agendas,’ he claimed.
The accusations mark the latest in a series of increasingly acrimonious tit-for-tat exchanges by the parties involved. As reported in TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, in October 2012 the Finance Ministry accused the management of state-owned national PTO NT of not showing any enthusiasm towards developing a business strategy for the company, going as far as to call it ‘lethargic’ when it comes to formulating an assertive business plan. Further, the ministry employee also accused the MoCI, the agency responsible for overseeing NT’s and the industry’s activities, of exhibiting ‘indifference’ towards its future business plan or in bringing NT’s team into line. ‘Even the MoIC has not shown any interest in making the management more active,’ he reportedly said. More worryingly, the source claims that some high-level officials are actively lobbying to block the state’s efforts to sell off a stake in NT to a strategic partner, and claims that people within the telco are anxious to prevent a sell off as they are looking to make ‘a quick buck at NT’ themselves.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, in September 2012 the government committee formed to oversee the process of finding a strategic partner for NT recommended the sale of a 30% stake in the state-owned operator. At the time, finance secretary Krishna Hari Baskota was quoted as saying that the sale should be completed within the next 18 to 24 months. As it stands, the government owns a 91.49% stake in NT, having already divested a 4.68% shareholding to employees and 3.83% to the general public.