The Hon. Carl Bethel, Minister of Economic Development, commented on the increasing role of telecommunications companies in service-based economies such as The Bahamas as he reported on The Bahamas Government’s plans to privatise the state-owned Bahamas Telecommunications Corporation (Batelco).

The Minister was addressing participants at a “Privatisation and Competitive Government” conference sponsored by the United States Embassy and the College of the Bahamas.

Government will ensure that the majority of the privatised Batelco will remain in Bahamian hands, through share offering and Government retention of a stake in the new company.

The Public Utilities Commission, the independent and transparent regulatory authority, will maintain and facilitate the desired environment, according to Minister Bethel, “ a liberalised market does not mean a deregulated market”.

Although not viewing privatisation itself as a guarantee for competitiveness, the Minister pointed out that it is a necessary first step towards this end. Reportedly, there are vast numbers of young entrepreneurs waiting for Batelco’s privatisation, seeking to provide cellular, wireless and data transmission services. Privatisation should result in creating competitiveness, building awareness of consumer and business needs, driving the removal of bureaucracy and ensuring a wider base of private sector participation and control.

The Telecommunications Act 2000 paved the way for privatisation of the Bahamas Telecommunications Corporation, creating a new legal regulatory framework for telecommunications in The Bahamas, removing the monopoly rights of Batelco, and establishing a licensing regime for telecommunications.