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New Rates To Affect Phone Card Vendors

Date: 4/22/2009 5:05:06 PM

Some phone card vendors of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company Limited (BTC) have reportedly received advance information that BTC’s new vendors contract will be issued to reflect a new discount rate of 15 percent compared with the old rate of 25 percent, which according to former Minister of Works and Utilities Bradley Roberts represents a monstrous reduction of 40 percent. Vendors have been advised in writing that their contracts have been cancelled and new contracts will be issued and shall become effective May 18th 2009, Mr. Roberts claimed in a press release issued late Tuesday evening.

The former works and utilities minister with responsibility for BTC said, Despite the public relations expose in the April 17th edition of The Tribune business section, some vendors have received advance information that BTC’s new vendors contract will be issued to reflect the new discount rates.

This represents the largest reduction in the discount rate since prepaid cell phone cards were introduced in 2001. The intent is obvious BTC wishes to enhance its level of profitability since its net profit in 2008 declined almost 50 percent when compared with 2007, Mr. Roberts claimed.

The Bahama Journal contacted BTC President & CEO Kirk Griffin late Tuesday evening, who said he was unaware of the release issued by the former minister.

I will not comment on the release until I have had an opportunity to read what was said in the release, Mr. Griffin said.

We here at BTC have a business to run and we will do what’s in the best interest of BTC and our customers.

Mr. Roberts noted that in 2002, discounts for vendors amounted to about $3.5 million.

He added that in 2008, discounts for vendors amounted to $33.2 million, which compared to the actual cost of $27.3 million in 2007.

According to Mr. Roberts, pre-paid revenues grew from $135.8 million in 2007 to $144.4 million in 2008.

He also argued that initially, the discount rates started at 35 percent with a few vendors and that it was eventually reduced to 25 percent during his tenure as Minister and represented a reasonable reduction of 28.6 percent.

A large number of street vendors engaged in the sale of prepaid cell cards can be seen all over New Providence and in some of the Family Islands and, Mr. Roberts noted that many of those persons will now become victims of the downturn in the economy, even though they are making an honest living selling phone cards, apart from a few who have been harassed by the Police.

It will not take a rocket scientist to conclude that BTC’s decision to sharply reduce the discount rate will adversely impact those large number of persons engaged in the sale of phone cards who are earning a living to take care of themselves and their families.

I strongly appeal to the Minister responsible for BTC to have the decision revisited especially against the backdrop of the highly likely depressing consequences on the large numbers employed in this business, Mr. Roberts said.

The former minister further lamented that no caring Government with its eyes wide open should support the large number of Bahamians being pushed to join the unprecedented high numbers already on the unemployment rolls in our Bahamaland, Mr. Roberts said.

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