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Guyana establishes new watchdog; tax claim slows liberalisation talks

23 Jan 2018

Guyana has established its new independent regulatory body for telecoms, the Guyana Telecommunications Agency, Minister of Public Telecommunications Catherine Hughes has confirmed, although the body will not become operational for some time. The creation of the new agency forms the first of two phases of the implementation of the Telecommunication Act 2016. ‘The objective of establishing the agency now is to give time to put in place certain administrative arrangements that are necessary for the agency to function effectively when the entire Act is brought into force,’ the minister explained, adding that board members will be elected shortly to manage the agency. The new body will absorb the existing supervisory body for spectrum, the National Frequency Management Unit (NFMU), and will be responsible for licensing and spectrum policy.

Regarding liberalisation – the main objective of the Telecommunication Act 2016 – Minister Hughes commented that the government is ‘making good progress examining the proposals and the measures for liberalisation … we want to ensure Guyanese get the best deal.’ The ministry is attempting to negotiate an end to the monopolies of incumbent Guyana Telephone and Telegraph (GTT), which claims that its exclusive rights to provide international voice and data services are valid until 2030. Demerara Waves writes that the negotiations have been complicated further by an outstanding tax claim for USD44 million from the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA). GTT claims that if it is required to pay the fee, the government must reimburse the company to ensure that it receives a return on investment of no less than 15% per year under the terms of a 1991 agreement for the part privatisation of the company. TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database notes that the validity of the decades-old agreement has been called into question in recent years, as GTT had failed to adhere to its side of the same agreement and its financial reporting made it unclear whether it was indeed receiving its guaranteed 15% return.

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