BTC Joint Venture not Privatization

First Published: 2003-04-25

In late March the Tenders Commission announced its short list of bidders for a 49 percent interest in the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC). The list included three competing groups…Bahama Tel, Blue Telecommunications and Trans World Telecom. As reported in the media each group was made up of Bahamian private investors, a foreign telecommunications company and possible foreign investors. Each group wanted to become the strategic partner with the Government in a joint venture where the Government retained the controlling equity interest.

The MIT Dictionary of Modern Economics, Fourth Edition, defines “privatization” as “the policy of converting public ownership of an asset to private ownership.” The Tenders Commission appears limited in choice to an alternative that is not even “half way” privatization. The purpose of privatization is to get politics out of the business decisions of a critical business, a goal not realized with the present plan.

The fact is the track record of the Bahamian Government in business management is deplorable. Under its management and control the Government for years had a BTC workforce at least three times what was needed; and the quality of service provided and its cost were unacceptable. The reason for this poor record is that political considerations dominated the management process; providing good customer service at a reasonable price and making a profit were not the “name of the game.” This was so even though good telecommunications has always been important in the offshore finance industry and essential for e-commerce.

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