By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
PRIME Minister Perry Christie’s announcement of a new BTC deal was a “shameful and cynical betrayal of his campaign promise”, the FNM said yesterday.
Opposition Leader Dr Hubert Minnis said the agreement with BTC’s parent company Cable & Wireless Communications was not new because the Bahamian people still do not own the majority of the company.
He was speaking at his party’s headquarters on Mackey Street where he made several criticisms about Mr Christie who had been adamant in his efforts to regain BTC’s majority stake for nearly two years.
With the new agreement, both the Bahamian people and CWC now own 49 per cent of the company. The remaining two per cent has been transferred to a new BTC foundation.
Dr Minnis said: “This is nothing short of deception of the Bahamian people. We have gotten nothing new out of this arrangement.
“The Prime Minister was right to hold his head down during the press conference (on Wednesday) because it was shameful for the Prime Minister to pretend that the Bahamian people own an entity that is not vested in the treasurer of the Bahamas and whose proceeds are not deposited into the consolidated fund.
“There has been no change in ownership and no transfer of shares to the Bahamian people. The Prime Minister sheepishly announced that he has struck a deal to regain “majority economic interest” in BTC, not the majority of directors on the board, not the majority of the control of management.
“This is nothing less than a shameful and cynical betrayal of his campaign promise to the Bahamian people where he made majority ownership of BTC a major campaign issue.”
While the FNM is lambasting the government for what they describe as a bad deal, PLP Chairman Bradley Roberts believes Mr Christie has demonstrated skill of ‘moral suasion’ during the negotiations.
He said: “The government’s decision to hold the 5,093,000 shares transferred in trust for the Bahamian people and to be used for permitted purposes is welcome news because Bahamians get to see, touch, feel and experience the tangible benefits of the income derived from the re-acquired shares.”
The shares are expected to contribute to improvements in telecommunications, the development of sports and recreational activity and to assist in expanding technology to help in the fight against crime.
Mr Roberts said there was nothing in the agreement that reasonable Bahamians cannot get behind, support and benefit from.
He said: “To our detractors, gainsayers and critics I invite you to eat crow, to do so liberally and to choke on it. In the end, this pursuit was not a fool’s errand; it was not a waste of time, nor was it a chase after an elusive rainbow as some have gloated.
“There was indeed a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow payable to the Bahamian people in perpetuity - the value and national developmental benefits for our youth are incalculable,” Mr Roberts said.
The Christie administration, he said, is now expected to focus its attention on the liberalisation of the telecommunications sector in the Bahamas.