Govt may opt to waive a portion of GP/Robi's dues

3 Oct 2019

The Bangladeshi government is reportedly considering waiving GrameenPhone (GP) and Robi’s late fees, which amount to nearly a half of the BDT134.5 billion (USD1.56 billion) claimed by the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) as unpaid dues in its 2019 audit, The Daily Star writes. According to the country’s legislation, a 15% compound rate is applied on late fees; of the BDT125.8 billion owed by GP, BDT61.9 billion is late fees, while Robi’s BDT8.7 billion dues comprise BDT1.7 billion of late fees. BTRC Chairman Md Jahurul Haque was quoted as saying: ‘The government might be considering giving a waiver on late fees for a swift resolution … We still stand by the audit findings, but the government has the final say.’ The impasse between the regulator and the two cellcos – which vehemently dispute the audit claims – prompted Bangladeshi Finance Minister Mustafa Kamal to step in as a mediator last month; the official said at the time: ‘If we continue with our claims, a resolution will take a long time and that will hamper the mobile operators’ business and restrict our revenue growth too.’

Due to the impasse with the BTRC, the two operators are currently banned from getting approvals for new services and packages and cannot import equipment to maintain their networks. In July 2019 the BTRC slashed GP’s bandwidth by 30% and Robi’s by 15% for the non-payment of the dues, but the block was lifted by mid-July as it was causing issues to subscribers. Further, the BTRC threatened GP and Robi with cancellations of their 2G/3G concessions if the requested sums were not settled, prompting GP and Robi to file cases with a Dhaka court, seeking permanent injunctions against the telecom regulator’s audit claims.