Neko Grant On BaTelCo

The Member of Parliament for Lucaya, Neko Grant, charged in the House of Assembly on Wednesday that before the privatization of BaTelCo takes place, the government should review the deposits of consumers, of which he hopes are presently in an interest bearing account.

"It is so unfair for BaTelCo to be holding my deposit for over 30 years and the deposit of countless Bahamians for many more years without paying an interest on the same. It is a matter of concern to me, not only as it relates to BaTelCo, but other corporations providing services where consumers make security deposits and are paid no interest on these deposits," charged Grant.

According to Grant, consumers make security deposits and are paid no interest, but if they are late with their payments, an interest is attached to their payment.

"This needs to be reviewed and corrected, whether it's BaTelCo, BEC, the Water & Sewerage Corporation, Cable Bahamas or Grand Bahama Power or Utility," said Grant.

On a point of order, Minister of Housing and National Insurance, as well as former president of the Bahamas Communications Public Officers Union (BCPOU), Shane Gibson, stood on his feet to refute Gibson's claims.

"What the MP for Lucaya is stating is wrong. There is no interest that is presently attached to payments for BaTelCo if it is late," charged Gibson.

Grant went on to make further claims about BaTelCo once it was instituted in Freeport over its predecessor Contel, which was established in 1971.

Grant expressed that Contel provided more efficient services and when BaTelCo took over, they did a number of things to demoralize the staff.

"They reduced the salaries of Contel employees considerably, eliminated the payment of school fees, took away the privilege of senior managers using company vehicles and this resulted in a demoralized staff and the rendering of poor service," said Grant.

On a second point of order with regard to claims made by Grant, Gibson asked the Lucaya MP to again retract his claims.

"The member for Lucaya needs to retract his claims. Contel employees were not demoralized. He is saying this and is failing to outline the benefits of these employees once BaTelCo took over," charged Gibson.

Meanwhile, Grant noted that the privatization of BaTelCo took so long for a number of reasons. He said that finances had to be put in order, accounting procedures pre-1992 was poor and totally unacceptable and there was also a need to streamline the Corporation.

The Lucaya MP said that as the government plans to bid 49% of BaTelCo to a strategic partner, he firmly supports the participation of Bahamians in conjunction with an international partner who has confirmed adequate funding.

"By doing this, the corporation will be able to upgrade equipment, take advantage of the technical and managerial skills, an experience thereby transforming the corporation into a vibrant telecommunications provider," he said.

Grant explained that a foreign strategic partner will bring in capital expenditure, purchasing power, research and development capability. He said the results have already been demonstrated in Freeport, where Southern Electric has come into Freeport Power Company, in which public declarations have been made of what Freeport Power was paying for equipment prior to the partnership of Southern Electric and what they now pay.

"The end result is, consumers of electricity in Grand Bahama pay lower rates than do customers of BEC," said Grant.

In addition, the Lucaya MP said that the telecommunications sector policy, as detailed and published by the FNM government in July 2001, should be followed by the present government and the privatization of BaTelCo will be a huge success.

"I therefore support the resolution," he said.

Created: 22 August 2017
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