Categorized | National News

PM: Moody’s Unfair And Inaccurate

Prime Minister Perry Christie yesterday slammed recent questions raised by international credit rating agency Moody’s about the government’s proposed plan to regain a controlling interest of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC).

According to the prime minister, the concerns were both “unfair” and “inaccurate.”

On Tuesday, an article appeared in a local daily citing a top Moody’s analyst, who, among other things, questioned how the Christie administration plans to renationalise the country’s only cellular services provider; whether the move will raise the country’s debt and whether reacquiring a majority interest in BTC is in the public interest.

The analyst also claimed he had presented his list of questions to the government.

However, at a press conference yesterday afternoon, Mr. Christie denied knowledge of any such exchange.

“Moody’s has not spoken to me; no representative from Moody’s has spoken to me. No representative of Moody’s has raised any questions to me about my declared intentions to represent the government of The Bahamas to commence discussions with BTC and Cable and Wireless (CWC) with respect to acquiring shares in BTC to give the majority interest to Bahamians,” the prime minister said.

“My sense is that if you are truly not sure of what is happening then the first order of business is that you ask the question of the relevant people. I am the Minister of Finance, Minister of State for Finance [Michael] Halkitis has not been spoken to about it and so the first indication of their [Moody’s] not knowing what is happening or not being sure of what the motives are came from us looking at the newspaper. That’s not the way I would have thought Moody’s would want to do business in The Bahamas.”

The prime minister said his administration has every intention of carrying out one of the Progressive Liberal Party’s (PLP) most ambitious and controversial campaign pledges to return a controlling interest of BTC to the Bahamian people.

“The intention that I have declared on behalf of the Government of The Bahamas is grounded in the democracy in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas” Mr. Christie said.

“When the people of The Bahamas elected us, one of the things that we said we would do when we were competing and contesting the election, was that if elected, we would move to reacquire at least two per cent of the shares. And so my mandate is grounded in the will of the people of The Bahamas.

In 2011, Cable and Wireless (CWC) purchased 51 per cent of BTC from the previous administration for $204 million.

Under the deal, the government agreed to allow Bahamians to buy shares in its 49 per cent stake of the company; however, Mr. Christie has since cancelled any share offerings as a result of his government’s plans to renegotiate the existing deal.

“The Bahamas Government now owns 49 per cent of the shares, a significant percentage of the shares,” Mr. Christie explained.

“We went to the people of the country with respect to moving ahead by way of a plan and when I came in and saw the plan of the Government of The Bahamas had gone significantly over their limits and overdrafts and were deciding to sell shares to meet this new situation that had developed to the Bahamian people…seven…eight …nine per cent, I said that it is not on the agenda for our government at this time. We are not opposed to Bahamians having shares because ultimately that has always been our intention and we have not departed from that intention.”

Negotiations with CWC executives are expected to get begin soon.

The prime minister has named a local delegation to represent the government at those negotiations including businessman Franklyn Wilson, former Attorney General Sean McWeeny, attorney Rowena Bethel and former BTC CEO Leon Williams.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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