Telecommunications company, Speednet SMART this morning responded to recent reports of government ministries switching telephone services to privately owned company Smart from government control company, Belize Telemedia Limited. The one-page release states, quote, “Smart, like the general public, is aware of a directive from GOB for Ministries to institute cost saving measures. To this end, GOB has taken the approach of accepting the best offer for the provision of services, taking into consideration price, quality and range of services. As a result, BTL and Smart can now equally pursue government business by way of tenders.” End of quote. According to SMART, its proposals have allowed ministries to compare other proposals and make cost-saving decisions. SMART says this new approach helps GOB to lower costs, assists GOB to avoid waste, which helps fund other operational activities, including personnel. The release states (quote) “the competitive nature of the telecom industry is prescribed within the Telecommunications Act. Under this Act both BTL and Smart have the same rights and obligations under their licenses, and both must maintain a nationwide telecommunications infrastructure. The Government must represent all persons in Belize equally and without discrimination. The Constitution requires that government implement policies that eliminate economic privilege and disparity. This means the Government should not be biased towards BTL at the expense of Smart. (unquote) Appearing on The Morning Show today was Prime Minister John Briceno who was asked about the issue.
John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize: “I don’t know what’s this foolish thing that they’re saying that the government is switching from BTL to Smart, there’s no such policy. There’s no such policy. Government continues to give business to BTL in the millions but there is competition and in this instance with the Ministry of Rural Development it was simply a case where they got a better deal with the competition. BTL was not serving them well and the minister informed us in Cabinet last week said that the CEO met with BTL and Smart and they found that the package that Smart was giving them was much better. They only get $30 for their workers to be the field workers and the workers were saying the $30 from Smart goes longer than BTL so they are just trying to assist their employees to be able to get a better package. Simple.”
Troy Gabb, Host, The Morning Show: “Are there other ministries that migrated over to Smart.?
John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize: “Again it has been, as I said there is no policy, there is no one in government that could say that I have called them and told them well I want to make the change, none. I don’t even know that those things happened but better service, better price. It’s competition.”
The Government is by far the largest consumer of telecommunications services in the country, and according to SMART, if it were to show bias by excluding Smart from being able to provide it with services, it would distort the telecommunications market and reduce the ability of Smart to compete fairly. SMART, which employs one hundred fifty Belizeans, says it simply seeks to level the playing field.