Former Communication Minister pay tribute to telecos in Ghana
Former Communications Minister, Haruna Iddrisu has described the telecom operators in Ghana as “the hens that lay the golden egg” and the “only allies of government” in terms of government revenue.
He explained that during his tenure as sector minister, there was a time when government needed money to balance its books before the end of the financial year, and the telcos were the only corporate entities who agreed to meet their financial obligations to government ahead of time to enable government balance the books.
The Minister made these admissions at a cocktail organized by the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications to bid him farewell, and to welcome to the new Minister of Communication, Dr. Edward Omane Boamah.
The august ceremony at the Telecoms Chamber’s offices in Labone, was attended by very high profile personalities within the telecom fraternity, including telco CEOs, Directors of the National Communications Authority, Ministry of Communications, National Information Technology Agency, Kofi Annan Centre for Excellence in ICT, Tower Companies and industry journalists.
Haruna Iddrisu, who is now Minister of Trade and Industry said: “I have always said that you do not kill the hen that lay the golden egg. In terms of employment you can count on the telcos because a large chunk of Ghanaians earn their living working in the telcos, if not directly, then in the distribution channel of this particular sector.”
“There was a particular year when government had difficulties balancing our books and the ones who came to our aid were the telcos. I picked a phone and called the telco CEOs and asked them if they could advance some of their financial obligations to us ahead of December 30th and there was no hesitation on the part of any of them to assist government balance the books to open a new year,” the minister added.
He however noted that issue of double taxation facing the telcos under the Communication Service Tax (CST), otherwise known as talk tax, is real, and needed immediate ministerial intervention to deal with it decisively.
Haruna Iddrisu therefore urged his successor, Dr. Omane Boamah to pay particular attention to dealing with it.
“Government would have to do a review of it (talk tax) and take a consequential decision that assures the industry of some decency in terms of the fairness of every tax system,” he said.
He also mentioned that the relatively exorbitant levies and charges that local government agencies place on telcos in their effort to expand infrastructure, saying that he set the tone for dialogue between the telcos, represented by the Chamber, and other stakeholders such as the NCA, and the Ministries of Local Government and of Communication, which has charted a roadmap towards resolving it.
The former Communications Minister applauded the NCA and its directors for providing him the support and the guidance he needed to take some of the bold decisions in the interest of the country, adding that there were times when the NCA bosses were bold to discourage policies that they felt would hurt the industry players.
Haruna Iddrisu cautioned his successor, Dr. Omane Boamah to get ready for the rumour that he (Omane Boamah) has become the richest minister in Ghana because all the telcos are loading him with cash “just like the rumour was spread about me.”
Haruna Iddrisu was Minister of Communication throughout the eight-year term of the Mills-Mahama administration after service as ranking member for Communication for eight years during the Kufuor administration. He is credited with quite a number of feats in the Communication sector.
The new Communication Minister, Dr. Omane Boamah said he is excited about the telecoms industry, saying he had been involved with the sector on issues of mounting of telecoms masts and fears associated with emissions.
As Deputy Minister of Environment and Science, Dr. Omane Boamah chaired an inter-ministerial committee responsible for drafting guidelines of citing towers. He therefore assured the telcos that his doors are opened to discuss the issue further and to constitute a consortium of stakeholders to educate the public on the unfounded emission scare.
He noted that with the “gargantuan leap” in mobile penetration, recording more than 100% at the end of 2012, “perhaps we are almost achieving universal coverage and this industry has contributed monumentally”.
Dr. Omane Boamah observed the 0.4% inflation in the telecom sector, which was the lowest in the country, saying that growth does not necessarily depend on increasing prices to capture a few customers, but rather giving affordable prices to benefit from economies of scale.
CEO of Telecoms Chamber, Kwaku Sakyi-Addo welcomed Dr. Omane Boamah to the telecom sector and congratulated Haruna Iddrisu for his new appointment to the Trade and Industry Minister, and into Cabinet.