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PM remarks at Newco office opening

Prime Minister Perry Christie made remarks at the opening of Newco2015 Ltd’s administration offices at the end of last week. View or download a PDF of his comments here. 

Monday, November 14, 2016
Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Office Of The Prime Minister has released a statement regarding the opening of the Newco2015 Ltd’s administration offices. Here follows the full statement:

In a week of noteworthy developments both here in The Bahamas, and abroad, today marks another important milestone for my Government’s continued agenda for the modernization of our country to meet the demands of the 21st century.

Amidst our transition to the University of The Bahamas occurring this week, I am pleased to officiate in this ceremony that puts a definitive stamp on a fully liberalized communications sector in this country as we expand our national mobile ecosystem. Both events are strong nods towards a promising future for our society.

There is no doubt that in the last two decades or so, The Bahamas, (in keeping with the rest of the world), has derived significant benefits from the phenomenal potential unleashed by information and communications technologies.

During this time we have progressed from a single state-owned monopoly provider of telecommunications to a fully liberalized environment that offers choice in the communication providers for all communications services, and with oversight by an independent regulator, URCA.

The last bastion of monopoly when my Government took office in 2012 was the cellular mobile services. Today we bear witness to the tangible manifestation of full liberalization with the official opening of these administrative offices of NewCo2015, the second mobile licensee in The Bahamas.

Following a transparent competitive bidding process which began just two years ago; a process that was ably managed by the Cellular Liberalisation Task Force under the leadership of former Financial Secretary, Mrs. Ruth Millar; we have progressed through to the selection of a successful applicant; and finally, the award of a licence to NewCo2015.

NewCo2015 is a company that, in its broadest sense, is jointly owned by the people of The Bahamas through HoldingCo Ltd on the one hand (as majority equity owner), and Cable Bahamas on the other. It is a public private partnership arrangement in which management and control is exercised by Cable Bahamas.

It will be recalled that the Government accepted the recommendation of the Task Force that, in order to facilitate timely formation and commencement of operations for NewCo2015, the Government would serve as the initial and sole shareholder of HoldingCo. This Government ownership would be on a temporary basis, pending an offering of the shares in HoldingCo to eligible Bahamian investors. The Board of HoldingCo along with the Task Force has been charged with advising the Government on, and managing the process for, divestment.

In its manifesto 2012, my Government pledged to broaden Bahamian ownership in our economy and has demonstrated its commitment through the ownership structure implemented for HoldingCo.

As we look to the future, it is self-evident that modern successful economies have gained an advantage through skillful exploitation of the limitless possibilities that an advanced communications sector offers. According to the 2016 Mobile Economy publication issued by the Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA):

“In 2015, the mobile ecosystem generated 4.2% of global GDP, or more than $3.1 trillion of economic value added. In addition, the mobile ecosystem directly provided employment to nearly 17 million people across the world, and indirectly supported an additional 15 million jobs in other sectors of the world economy. The industry also contributed $430 billion in general taxation, with a further $90 billion paid through spectrum auctions.” The publication continues that “In the period to 2020, the global economic footprint of the mobile sector will continue to grow, reaching a total economic value of $3.7 trillion by 2020. General taxation of the mobile ecosystem is expected to raise $480 billion by 2020, while more than 3 million new jobs will be directly created within the mobile ecosystem in the next five years, bringing the total number of jobs in the mobile ecosystem to more than 20 million by 2020. Indirect employment in the broader economy is also expected to grow further, reaching almost 16 million by 2020”.

These are impressive numbers and serve to illustrate the potential for this industry within The Bahamas if effectively harnessed. An important step towards effective harnessing is through the introduction of competition in the cellular mobile market.

Against the backdrop of global trends my Government looks forward to the competitive environment in mobile services producing healthy, sustained growth of local ICT industries that tap into the innovative and creative talents of our people, especially our younger people, as a means of stimulating our fledgling mobile app industry. We also look forward to opportunities for enhanced ecommerce ventures, technology hubs and technology parks making greater use of mobile technologies.

Carlos Slim, the well-known Mexican communications magnate described information and communications technologies as “the nervous system of modern civilisations”. As work progresses on our National Development Plan, a well-connected country in which communications removes barriers of distance by facilitating access to public and private sector services through the use of broadband and mobile technologies, further serves to level the playing field for all Bahamians wherever they live or work in this archipelago. In this regard, it is worth mentioning here that via a Deed of Undertaking Cable Bahamas has committed to the Government to accelerate roll-out in specified family islands as may be required by Government to support development objectives in those islands.

It will also catalyse innovation in the delivery of government services which, globally, more and more, are being accessed through mobile technologies. Recognising the importance of this, my Government is pleased to have realized this important milestone for full liberalization, particularly in light of the potential this holds for greater exploitation of mobile technologies for sustainable development.

It is also worth recalling how recent hurricane events have reinforced how vital good, affordable communications are to the lifeline of the country. It acts as an advance warning system, a means of communication during the passage of storms and a vital lifeline to communities impacted by the passage of storms.

Bahamians are being empowered through these developments to become more participatory citizens in vital areas like law and order and various public services. Mobile devices such as smartphones are more than just devices for talking, they permit constructive engagement and contributions to governance; they are fullscale entertainment centers; they are vast repositories of data that could be used to inform policymaking. I am pleased for the privilege afforded my Government to provide that vital bridge to the future for our citizens.

Coming myself from an era in which direct (face-to-face) interaction was the norm for social and professional engagement, it is often amazing to see the extent to which today’s culture depends much more on interaction using remote technologies. Health and education services are administered remotely, commercial arrangements abound across the Internet, other services are provided in the same manner and people socialize using the Internet through the proliferation of social media sites. Heck! I understand now that the Internet is fast becoming the preferred arena for finding mates (dating and marriage prospects). That is an epic cultural and societal shift that requires reliable, affordable Internet access. People, our people and especially our younger generation live their lives in these virtual environments. This is their reality and Governments are compelled to create the environments that are conducive to this.

This new reality is complemented by the explosive growth of mobile technologies, which allow people to conduct their affairs while on the go. Ours is an era of convenience and mobile technologies are the primary facilitators of this lifestyle.

The millions of visitors that grace our shores annually also have expectations that communications and connectivity will meet world class standards both in terms of quality and price. Choice in the sector provides the means to respond to these demands.

In closing these brief remarks I take this opportunity to emphasise that I am most pleased that my Government has remained true to its promise to expand Bahamian ownership base in the our economy. Through shares held in NewCo2015 via HoldingCo, the Bahamian public stands to enjoy substantial ownership in this very important growing economic sector.

We are reinforcing our national information infrastructure with an eye to a stronger, fairer, more resilient and competitive Bahamas.

Trans Island Airways (Nassau International) has been granted exemption authority by the US Department of Transportation to run chartered passenger and cargo flights between The Bahamas and the US.

Developers of the luxury residential condo complex Thirty Six on Paradise Island have said the project is on target in sales and slightly ahead of schedule in construction.

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