SOLOMON TELEKOM 'MONOPOLY' FACES POWERFUL OPPOSITION

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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Nov. 4, 2002 - Solomon Star/PINA Nius Online)---The Association of Independent Members of Parliament, an influential force in the Sir Allan Kemakeza government, says Solomon Telekom should not be given any further exclusive license.

Instead, the telecommunication industry should be opened up to other providers, it said, in joining criticism of Telekom's bid for 25 more exclusive years.

Solomon Telekom's current 15-year license expires next year. It says it needs to extend this so it can fund expansion of telecommunications services.

"Telekom has enjoyed tax-free status for the last 25 years," the Independent Members said.

"Why do they insist on continuing this living off government dues? This is a totally unjustified request from a company ... associated with the multi-million dollar transnational company Cable and Wireless PLC."

The Independent Members said Solomon Islanders who directly benefit as Telekom shareholders are National Provident Fund members and not the general masses, as Telekom implied.

"They have enjoyed monopoly in the industry for the last 25 years but have yet to provide value for money," said the Independent Members, in a statement.

This claimed that the service so far is expensive and is a hindrance to small business development.

Solomon Telekom last week said if the government was to stop giving it duty and tax exemptions, charges will go up. For example, telephone costs could go up as much as 24 percent, it said.

The Independent Members said Telekom is expensive because it is still operating outdated communications technology. It is also supporting an extravagant management lifestyle while requiring a minimum 25 percent annual profit on turnover, they said.

Permanent Secretary for Transport, Works and Communications Sam Maezama said the government has not refused to renew Telekom's license but is being "cautious" about it.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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