Former Bahamas Chamber of Commerce President and current Senator Tanya Wright has publicly come out in support of government’s plan to sell 51% of BTC to Cable & Wireless.
Highlighting the need to open the telecommunications industry for competition, Wright, who is president of World Cooperation Group, said that businesses and entrepreneurs had been locked out of the lucrative industry for too long, and the sooner the state-owned monopoly is privatized, the better.
“While the jury is still out on the eventual majority owner of BTC, advocates of the business community should be steadfast in support of the liberalization of telecommunications as the benefit will inure to them,” Wright said.
“In the face of aggressive competition, BTC may find [itself], like many others, filling purely social mandates which could be costly and not profitable to the Bahamian people,” she said.
Wright said that BTC’s earning capacity in a truly competitive environment comes into question. Despite a three-year monopoly and limits on the number of new entrants to the telecoms arena afterwards, she said BTC in the long term “will surely see its profit margins decline to some extent not yet measurable due to competition brought about by service and pricing.”
Unions, of course, are vehemently opposed to the sale of a 51% stake in BTC to Cable and Wireless (C&W). They are threatening a national strike to force the government to reverse its decision to sell.
But such threats, coupled with unruly behaviour by union members, have turned public support against the unions. Many Bahamians are concerned about the disasterous effects that a national strike would have on the economy.
Ms Wright says:
“To me it has always been a matter of timing as to the prudence of the sale of 51% of BTC. From a private business prospective the preference would be sooner rather than later, so that the government can get on with the liberalization of the industry and more people can participate through their own ventures. Later or not at all would be a bad move.
“Many people have overlooked the fact that although BTC is Bahamian owned and successful, it has not been very generous with its success to its consumers, its shareholders yes, but not the consumer,” she added.
“BTC has not really bent over backwards to satisfy the cries of its customers to meet demands of global or regional competition, having in a lot of cases shown a ‘take it or leave it’ attitude towards its consumers in the face of their demands for more competitive pricing.”