SOLOMONS MINISTER NIXES TELECOM RATE INCREASE

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By Robert L. Iroga

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, May 30) – Solomon Islands Telecommunications Minister Simeon Bouro has ordered Solomon Telekom to suspend its proposed 4.6 percent tariff increase, which is to become effective on June 1.

Sources said Mr Bouro delivered his letter to the company.

The planned tariff increase would further hit hard on the customers who claimed to have already paid for more than other Pacific countries for the same services.

It is not clear the reasons for the minister’s demand for suspension but Solomon Star understands that Mr Bouro’s action was backed by popular public opinion against the increase.

When he became the minister, Mr Bouro described telephone charges in the Solomons as very expensive.

Already, the Chamber of Commerce had opposed the tariff increase and had written to Solomon Telekom not to implement it.

The Chamber’s call upset the General Manager of Telekom, Martyn Robinson.

In a letter to the Chamber and copied to the Prime Minister, Bouro and Minister of Commerce, Mr Robinson said: "In the interest of transparency within the Chamber of Commerce and for the general public, I would request that the Chamber publish details of all their members various increases in charges for services and goods during the last 15 months."

He said the Chamber should also publish details of what expansion and new services their members have achieved in the rural areas of the country over the past 15 months together with the costs involved.

In regards to the proposed 4.6 per cent increase, Mr Robinson said the increase is justified.

"The rise is neither more or less than provided for in the company’s telecommunication licence," Mr Robinson said in his letter to Chamber of Commerce.

He said the high charges in Honiara were to subsidise the services of Solomon Islanders outside the capital.

"Until alternative arrangements are put in place, then that will remain the case," Solomon Telekom general manager said.

It is not clear whether the company will comply with the minister’s order.

Meanwhile, Solomon Telekom’s 15 years exclusive license will be reviewed likewise the Telecommunication Act as part of the Government’s reform into the telecommunication sector.

Mr Bouro told Solomon Star last month that the review will be carried out by the World Bank as part of its assistance to SI on telecommunication development and regulatory reform.

May 30, 2005

Solomon Star: http://www.solomonstarnews.com/

 

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