POST TIME: 19 September, 2019 12:48:05 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 19 September, 2019 05:12:10 PM
Govt now wants talks to realise dues from GP, Robi
Staff Reporter, Dhaka

Govt now wants talks to realise dues from GP, Robi

The government, instead of taking a hardline stance, is going to settle the dispute over realising audited ‘unpaid dues’ of over Tk 13,000 crore from leading mobile phone operators Grameenphone and Robi through discussion. Finance minister AHM Mustafa Kamal said at a press briefing yesterday that the ongoing conflict between 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, while the BTRC will also withdraw the show-cause notices issued concerning the matter. The conflict between them will be resolved through discussion within three weeks,” the minister added.

The finance minister said this 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 had taken a hardline stand against Grameenphone and Robi in order to collect a total of Tk. 13,446 crore in fees and taxes that were long overdue. On September 5, the BTRC issued show-cause notices to the operators, asking them to explain within 30 days why their lincences should not be cancelled for not paying the dues.

On July 4, the BTRC slashed Grameenphone’s bandwidth by 30 per cent and Robi’s by 15 per cent for failing to clear the dues. However, they lifted the bandwidth blockade on July 17 considering the inconvenience being caused to 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 any import network equipment in order to pressurise them to clear their dues.

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 been discussing the issue all with stakeholders over the last few days. We need to reach a solution, which must be a win-win situation in which no party will lose.”

“We want to realise the unpaid dues that would be logical. The mobile operators will also pay their dues after settling the issue across the table through discussion,” he expressed hope.

Directing a remark at Mustafa Jabbar, the finance minister said: “It will be the best possible avenue for a peaceful solution. The mobile operators will carry on their business and give us our dues. We will assist them in conducting their business.”

Responding to a query, the finance minister said that they would not disclose the way of resolving the conflict at this juncture as the government did not want any further controversy on the issue.

Meanwhile, the two mobile operators issued separate statements following the finance minister’s briefing. In a statement, Grameenphone CEO Michael Foley said: “I am pleased that we came together to agree to find an amicable solution to issues around the audit.” In its statement, Robi said: “We welcome the government’s initiative to start a candid and transparent discussion on resolving the disputed audit claims.”

“We are grateful to the finance minister for his timely intervention. With today’s announcement, we believe the impasse in the telecom sector will finally come to an end. We are confident that we can recover all the losses with immediate resumption of large-scale investment,” it added.