Telecoms, AML Bills high on agenda of 11th Parliament- HPS -Designate Harmon

The liberalisation of the Telecommunications Sector is set to become a reality with the new administration. Acting Head of the Presidential Secretariat Joseph Harmon, in an interview with the National Communications Network Inc., on Monday indicated that the new APNU+AFC administration intends to put on the front-burner the passage of the Telecommunications Bill in the 11th Parliament. Harmon explained that the Bill was on the verge of conclusion, prior to the prorogation of the last Parliament. The Bill which was first introduced in 2011, and revised in 2013, was at the level of Select Committee in the 10th Parliament. It is set to address concerns, including those of the industry’s stakeholders. “When the Parliament was prorogued, we were on the verge of completing the works in the Special Select Committee for the entire package of legislation… since the bulk of the work was already done, I think we can have consent on the way forward, to ensure that that happen (the Bill is passed),” Harmon explained. “We have to really move this sector forward. It is important not only to businesses, but to the school children, the people in the education system, so we can have better bandwidth, faster communication with the rest of the world,” he said. He noted that, “it is something that is so unusual, when foreigners come and they want to access the internet and it is so slow, it can hinder them from doing business in the way they want to do it.” Harmon said that the APNU+AFC administration will aggressively push the completion and passage of the Bill. The Bill seeks to create a competitive regime in the Telecommunications Sector. It provides for an open, liberalised and competitive sector that will be attractive to new market entrants and investors, while preserving the activities of the current participants. By creating this competitive environment for telecommunications, the Bill is expected to result in greater choice, better quality of service and lower prices for consumers. The Bill also specifically addresses the expansion of telecommunication networks and services into un-served and under-served areas, through the institution of a new universal access/universal service programme, in an effort to further national, regional, social and economic development. Meanwhile, the HPS-Designate also disclosed that the country will, within the 11th Parliament, join the rest of the countries that have passed and implemented their Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AMLCFT) Bill. This Bill too was at the level of a Special Select Committee, ready to facilitate amendments put forward by the new administration, when it was in the opposition. These amendments had to do with strengthening the enforcement of the Bill, so as to make it more relevant. “I can say that that (the passage of the AML Bill) is a priority for us,” Harmon said. He said that this is one matter in which the new administration will test the truthfulness and the positions of the opposition, to see if they really want the Bill to pass. “We will put it back on the front burner, and we will let the Guyanese people see that we are going to push aggressively for it,” Harmon said. “We have always said that we wanted Anti Money Laundering Legislation that was wholesome, that dealt with the mechanisms for enforcement, and we have those things already in the draft before the Special Select Committee. So it is just a matter of getting back there, getting the arguments finished very quickly and getting it (the Bill) before the floor,” he explained. Passage of the internationally-required legislation, emanating out of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF), a body that is responsible for monitoring the operations of legislation of this type throughout Caribbean, is to achieve effective implementation of and compliance with international recommendations on the prevention and control of money laundering and the combating of the financing of terrorism.