No need for Guyana gov’t to compensate GTT- PM Phillips in response to APNU+AFC’s Cathy Hughes

Last Updated on Monday, 7 February 2022, 22:35 by Writer

Amid A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change’s (APNU+AFC) Cathy Hughes’ concerns about the end of Guyana Telephone and Telegraph’s (GTT) monopoly, Prime Minister Mark Phillips said that utility company voluntarily gave up its market dominance status as part of the liberalisation process.

Ms. Hughes, a former Minister of Public Telecommunications, said her administration had been “close to completing the settlement agreement” with GTT and its parent company Atlantic Tele-Network Inc (ATNI). Against that background, she asked Mr. Phillips, during the House National Budget Debate 2022, to say whether that final accord had been reached and if not, if the GTT and ATNI had withdrawn their claims for compensation and on what date.

But the Prime Minister said that was not a factor in GTT ending its monopoly. “She knew fully well that the issue of compensation did not arise since GTT voluntarily complied with all the provisions of the law as we issued the commencement sixty-four days after taking office,” he said.

Ms. Hughes also asked where the agreement was posted for the purpose of transparency and accountability.

The commencement order for the Telecommunications Act that provided for liberalisation was signed on October 5, 2020 by the Prime Minister. “It was based on the same advice that was given to the Honourable Minister two or three years before by the same advisors,” he said.

ATNI recalls that in 1990, it was awarded a license to provide domestic and international voice and data services in Guyana on an exclusive basis until December 2030. The company had wanted to see the provisions in licences to other competitors to ensure that they were not being permitted to provide services that are provided for in the 1990 licence.

ATNI says that on October 23, 2020, the Guyana government also brought into effect new telecommunications regulations called for by the telecommunications legislation. “The regulations include new requirements for the market as a whole, which impose costly additional regulatory fees and impact the Company’s operations, administrative reporting and services. There can be no assurance that these regulations will be effectively implemented, or that they will be administered in a fair and transparent manner,” the company says in its filing.

In response to Ms. Hughes’ question about the “large amount of outstanding taxes owed” by GTT based on assessments by the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), Prime Minister Phillips said that was a separate issue that was being dealt with by the tax agency and the company.

ATN’s filing to the United States’ Securities and Exchange Commission states that GRA’s disputed tax settlements amounts to US$44.1 million dating back to 1991 over the deductibility of intercompany advisory fees as well as other tax assessments. “The Company maintains that any liability GTT might be found to have with respect to the disputed tax assessments, totaling $44.1 million, would be offset in part by the amounts necessary to ensure that GTT’s return on investment was no less than 15% per annum for the relevant periods,” ATNI says.

Mr. Phillips did not respond to Ms. Hughes’ question about the total income in the Universal Service Fund.