By Candia Dames
The Bahamas Telecommunications Company would be “eaten alive” if it is not privatised, Minister of State for Finance James Smith said Sunday, while on the Love 97 Programme “Jones and Company.”
“That’s why the whole idea was to prepare it for privatisation,” he said.
Minister Smith pointed out that the reason why BTC has continued to earn profits over the years is because it is a monopoly.
“They are fooling themselves if they think you could remove the monopoly and leave it open to competition,” said the Minister, who was referring to critics who say BTC can become more efficient and survive without privatisation.
He added that BTC has the technical skills, “but they seem to lack the client concern that motivates big companies…these guys have been a monopoly for so long, they say ‘You wait for me’.”
Minister Smith reiterated that privatisation of BTC “is still on the table.”
The original process that was started about five years ago has to be brought to a successful, legal ending, he noted.
“By that I mean we had put in place certain rules and regulations for privatisation and we went through with that and the very last thing now is to have a public announcement and to amend the public policy statement which we put in accordance with the Act,” Minister Smith said.
He added, “This exercise has come to a close, but we will continue to talk to people until we can get what we want which would be a good price, a commitment to capital development, a commitment to training Bahamians and a commitment to upgrading the technology to first world standards.”
While on the same programme several weeks ago, Lindbergh Smith, president of Blue Telecommunications, indicated that his company was willing to pay as much as $300 million for 49 percent of the shares in BTC.
Blue was the last bidder to be kicked out of the race to purchase minority ownership in the company late last year.
Asked if the government would be willing to accept that offer, Minister Smith said he didn’t want to comment specifically on any one group.
“I don’t want to comment on what I believe might be sort of confidential things, but there could be offers for BTC,” he said. “But you have to look very closely at how it is going to be funded. BTC is still a very well off corporation…you can probably buy BTC using its own resources.”
Minister Smith added, “There have been some very creative financing things that were not quite [acceptable].”