High telco rates queried

The noteable rise in telecommunication rates that came about as a result of a merger between Telikom PNG and bmobile was raised on the floor of parliament yesterday by East Sepik Governor Allan Bird.

Governor Bird said this makes PNG a country with the third most expensive telecommunication rates in the world, and sought an explanation from the minister responsible for State Owned Enterprise.

The East Sepik Governor asked the Minister for State Owned Enterprises what the business rationale was between the merging of Telikom PNG and bmobile, labeling the sudden increase in telco rates as legalised thieving.

“Is it legal to raise additional revenue for the government so that it would fund some of the loans that it is taking out?

“My other question is who are these people sitting on these boards, what are their qualifications and how are they being able to secure these jobs and turn around and advise the government on how it puts the burden on its people?” he asked.

“Can you explain to this house, what is it that you people are thinking about by making all these decisions?”

Minister for State Enterprises, William Duma, in response said all the SOEs have not been performing well and in the case of telecommunicating rates, prices are fixed by the ICCC.

“The answer remains with ICCC. One would think that ICCC would not approve the figures all across the board, it does not make any sense.

“When we realised that we were operating below the rate that was charged by Digicel, we increased it to 30 percent, so that is the fact,” Duma said.

“We have to make money, something that is owned by us has to make money. No one has an immediate answer to fix what has gone wrong in the last 20-30 years.

“Mr Speaker there will be prices increase but not between the range of 100-170 percent.”

Meanwhile, ICCC Commissioner Paulus Ain said the regulation of telecommunication rates lies with NICTA.

(East Sepik Governor Allan Bird)

Sally Pokiton