The competition anticipated from the deregulation of the mobile telephone sector has not materialised for Vincentians.
Instead, what has happened is that the deregulation has “devolved into a low-budget war of attrition between mobile service operators, with tacit ceding of various subsectors, like cable TV and fixed-line broadband, to monopolies,” Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves said Monday in his budget Address.
Gonsalves, who also had ministerial responsibility for information technology said oft-promised investments in upgraded mobile broadband and data, have not materialised.
“While we value tremendously our partnership with the telecom providers, and we recognise that the changing economics of voice and data usage have upended their traditional business model, we intend to use all regulatory and legislative means to secure a better deal for Vincentian consumers.”
The minister also spoke about the link between telecommunication service and the country’s ability to attract investors.
“It bears repeating that broadband services in St. Vincent and the Grenadines — whether mobile or fixed line — remain overpriced, underpowered and unacceptably unreliable.
“The Government and the Vincentian people have demonstrated tremendous restraint and understanding in the face of geographic and logistical hurdles, as well as corporate restructuring of multinationals that occupy our ICT space. That patience has now worn thin.
“As a member of the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority, we have worked collaboratively and in good faith to alleviate the logistical and legislative challenges to improved service. However, if these problems cannot be addressed through private competition and basic values of customer service, we will attempt to rectify them legislatively and through more stringent regulatory oversight. The ICT sector is simply too important to our future for it to languish in the backwaters of corporate indifference.”
The minister said that to facilitate “a stronger consensual bond of mature understanding around issues touching and concerning the economy, I intend to implement the idea, hitherto floated by our Prime Minister, among others, to establish an advisory National Economic Council”.