The Government of The Bahamas has taken note that ebusiness is the next critical stage in the development of The Bahamas as an international services provider. Hence, it is committed to ensuring that The Bahamas takes maximum advantage of its strategic position and its assets to develop a vibrant e-business sector.
Well positioned to offer unique opportunities as a leading e-business hub, The Bahamas provides a range of options from virtual presence to full presence, which can draw on the highly skilled professional services that already form the backbone of the country’s pre-eminence in financial services.
Some years back, the Government adopted the philosophy that in order to facilitate e-commerce, it must foster the “right” environment. Chief among the steps identified as essential for the creation of a environment conducive for the transition to an information-based, knowledge-driven society was:
*”liberalisation of the telecommunications sector as a stimulus for competition to drive an electronic economy”*
Judith Smith, Legal Counsel for the Public Utilities Commission, points out that the PUC is mandated to stimulate competition in the area of telecommunications in The Bahamas. *”Our aim in regulating the market is to discourage behaviour that would not be conducive to competition. Current thinking is that competition lowers prices which benefits the consumer,”* she said.
The Government’s Telecommunications Sector Policy sets out the licensing strategy and liberalisation timetable in full. This Policy commits to the privatisation of the telecommunications company, the opening up of the domestic telecommunications market to competition in cost and quality of services, and the provision of universal access to basic telecommunication services.
The Government now is approaching the final preparatory stages for the privatisation of BaTelCo, which has included the vesting of assets and liabilities in the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC), a private entity. Soon, interested parties will be invited to negotiate for the sale of a 49% stake holding with management rights in BTC.
Generally, the Government has professed commitment 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.
Returning from a September Telecommunications Regulation and Law Conference and Workshop in Brussels, Belgium, Ms. Smith said EU regulators feel they have successfully introduced competition in the telecommunications field. EU member states now are moving from an individual licensing regime to an open licensing regime.
*”In an open licensing regime the regulator does not have to give you permission. The default is you can enter the market. There are no barriers. You simply notify the regulator of your intentions, you follow the rules and enter the market,”*she explained.
On commencement of operations in March 2000, the PUC assumed all regulatory powers and functions previously held by the Government- owned telecommunications company, BaTelCo. The PUC has licensing and regulatory responsibility for full liberalisation of activities within the sector.