The Bahamas Government will launch the sale of the Bahamas Telecommunications Corporation (BaTelCo) within the next two months.
During Parliamentary Debate on the privatisation of the corporation, Minister of Financial Services and Investments, Allyson Maynard-Gibson, pointed to the private sector as the best choice in providing leadership for the development of the Bahamian information ‘superhighway’. She said the Government is committed to greater private sector involvement and leadership in those sectors of the economy where competition and adoption of fast-paced, state-of-the-art innovation have acted as a stimulus for economic growth, greater efficiencies and higher levels of productivity. Private sector involvement, according to the Minister, has had the greatest manifestation in the telecommunications sector and the information and communications technologies (ICT) industries, the under girding platforms for the Internet and electronic business transacted across it.
The Government believes that fair and sustainable competition in the telecommunications sector is the best way to stimulate innovation, serve the interests of this demanding business and consumer base, and meet the public policy goals of choice and affordability.
The International Telecommunications Union supports the view that Governments must adopt the international standard of a non-regulatory, market-oriented approach that facilitates the emergence of a transparent and predictable legal and regulatory environment to support global business and commerce.
An optimum (liberalised and enhanced) infrastructure will have a direct correlation on the degree to which financial services, e-commerce business and global commerce remains within, can operate from, and are attracted to this jurisdiction, according to the Minister. Further, a BaTelCo in private hands offers a chance for technological and financial injections into the operations of the Corporation commensurate with market demands.
The main objectives of the privatisation exercise are viewed as improving of the levels of telecommunication services offered to subscribers, particularly business; ensuring the competitiveness of The Bahamas as a financial centre and tourism destination; and improving the efficiency of the telecommunications corporation.
It is anticipated that the private sector’s access to resources in a competitive, market-driven environment will ensure quality service levels inclusive of affordable value-added service.
Although the possibilities are unlimited as to the kinds of e commerce that may be transacted from any Island in The Bahamas, e-commerce is seen as only one aspect of the electronic world. E-government, e-health and e-education must also be high on the agenda of an archipelagic nation, says Minister Maynard-Gibson.
Referencing the strategic partner to be identified in the privatisation process, Minister Maynard-Gibson said such an entity will be required *”to demonstrate its ability to meet market demands for services and products, consistent with the Government’s economic development strategy that will best position The Bahamas to meet the expectations of its international business investors and the domestic market, as well as attract new business.”*
The strategic investor will own a maximum of 49% of the newly formed Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC), with additional shares offered for sale to the public, so that the Government and Bahamian public shareholders will together own no less than 51%.