Antiguan and Barbuda’s Minister of Information, Broadcasting, Telecoms & IT, Melford Nicholas, said this week that concerns over the commercial viability of the state-owned telecoms operator Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA) is one of the main reasons hindering the adoption of the proposed Telecommunications Bill – some three-and-a-half years after it was first introduced. The Daily Observer cites government concerns that APUA’s ability to compete in the local market could be at stake if the bill makes it into statute. Mr Nicholas noted the state’s concerns to ensure APUA can survive in a regulated market: ‘From the very beginning of the discussion, the management and staff at APUA had indicated to the government a fear that should the telecoms bill move ahead as prescribed, it would have put them in a position where they would not be able to compete … So, over the last 18 months, the government has granted more funding to APUA to give them an opportunity to improve their service offering. It still does not end the conversation because to get APUA to the level of commercial viability there has to be some further strengthening of the management practices.’ Further, the minister confirmed that the government is considering the option of finding a strategic partner for its wholly owned telecoms unit – stopping short of divulging the level of equity it might sell under such a plan.
However, Nicholas pointed out that despite the ongoing considerations, the government is keen to resolve the matter. ‘This is a matter of resolution that has to be resolved during the course of this year and so we don’t have much time left on the clock,’ he said.