Row with Grameenphone, Robi to end thru talks: Minister

Dhaka, Sept 18 – Instead of hard-line stance, the government is going to settle the dispute over realising ‘unpaid dues’ from leading mobile operators Grameenphone and Robi through discussion.Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal yesterday at a press briefing told media that the ongoing conflict between top two mobile phone operators and the BTRC over the unpaid dues would be resolved through discussion within three weeks.
“We want to resolve each and every conflict through discussion. The two top mobile operators will withdraw the cases filed earlier and the BTRC will also withdraw show cause notice regarding the matter. The conflict between the mobile operators and BTRC will be resolved through discussion within three weeks,” the minister said.
The finance minister came up with the statement after holding a high-profile meeting with all stakeholders at the Finance Ministry in Dhaka.
The meeting was also attended by Posts and Telecommunications Minister Mustafa Jabbar, Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) Chairman Jahurul Haque, NBR Chairman Md Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, and Grameenphone CEO Michael Foley.
Earlier, the government took a hard-line stance against Grameenphone and Robi in order to collect a total of Tk13,446 crore in fees and taxes that has been long overdue.
On September 5, BTRC issued show cause notices to the operators asking them to explain within 30 days why their lincences would not be cancelled for not paying the dues.
On July 4, the BTRC slashed Grameenphone’s bandwidth by 30%, and Robi’s by 15% for failing to clear the dues. However, they lifted the bandwidth block on July 17 considering the inconvenience it was causing the subscribers.
On July 22, the BTRC decided not to give any kind of approval to the two mobile phone operators to roll out new packages or services, or import network equipment in order to pressure them into clearing their dues.
The two mobile operators Robi and Grameenphone, on August 25 and 26 respectively, filed two cases with a Dhaka court, seeking permanent injunctions against the telecom regulator’s audit claims of Tk 13,447 crore.
At the briefing, finance minister AHM Mustafa Kamal said, “We have being discussing with all stakeholders in last few days over the matter. We need to reach a solution and the solution must be win-win situation as no party will lose.”
“We want try to realize the unpaid dues that would be logical and the mobile operators will also pay their dues after settling the issue across the table through discussion,” Kamal hoped.
“It will be best possible avenues for peaceful solution. The mobile operators will carry out their business and give us our dues. We will assist them in conducting their business,” the finance minister said.
Responding to a query, the finance minister said that they would not disclose the way of resolving the conflict at this time as the government did not want to keep any further argument over the issue.
Meanwhile, the two mobile operators issued separates statements following the finance minister’s briefing.
In a statement Grameenphone CEO Michael Foley said, “A very short statement from us-as you all know grameenphone has been a partner of development a Bangladesh last 22 years.”
“We are very proud and same time very humble. Our position here in this country and role play building better nation in delivering on the promise Bangabandhu and promise of digital Bangladesh,” the statement said.
There are ties and relationship kin get more difficult and times will be issues need to be resolved.
“I am pleased now that we come together to agree to find an amicable fair solution to issues around the audit,” he said.
On the other hand, Robi in its statement said, “We welcome the positive decision of the Government in engaging with us over a candid and transparent discussion on resolving the disputed audit claims.”
“We are grateful to the Hon’ble Finance Minister for his decisive intervention in this matter. With today’s announcement, we believe the much protracted impasse in the telecom sector will finally come to an end much to the delight of the industry stakeholders. Even though the Government, our customers and us have had to go through a major set-back due to this unnecessary and very much avoidable impasse, we are confident that we can recover all the losses with the immediate resumption of large scale investment. Digital Bangladesh demands that the telecom industry fires in all cylinders; we are happy that industry’s engine will start humming again,” the statement said.- Staff Reporter