Tk333 crore telecom fund kept useless

‘Government should finalize the rule immediately and sit with us and other stakeholders. We need to create opportunities for improving life of every citizen’

A social obligation fund (SoF) of Tk333 crore contributed by four mobile phone operators in Bangladesh remains idle for lack of a guideline on how to use the money.

Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) could not yet formulate the guideline although the operators have been complying with the obligation since November 2011.

The fund should be administered by the guideline under the law that made it mandatory for the operators to contribute 1% of their revenue meant for development of the country’s telecommunication infrastructure.

The mobile phone operators now raised their voice and wanted to be a part of formulating the rule.

“It is our contribution, so we should know how this amount will be managed,”

Mahmud Hossain, Chief Corporate Affair Officer of Grameenphone told Dhaka Tribune recently.

Mobile operators also shared their views with a group of journalists recently.

“Government should finalize the rule immediately and sit with us and other stakeholders. We need to create opportunities for improving life of every citizen,” said Zakiul Islam, senior director (regulatory & legal affairs) of Banglalink.

Mahmudur Rahman, executive vice president of Robi, said: “The government can do a lot with the money and we want to be part of the body that would manage the fund.”

He said they have plans for using the fund and ready to come forward with the idea if the government seeks help.

Earlier, Sunil Kanti Bose, chairman of Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) said: “Formulation of the rules for using the fund is now at final stage. It has been awaiting finance ministry’s approval for last couple of months.”

The money is now in an account of BTRC, which is being increased by around Tk500m every quarter.

BTRC officials said once the rules get approval, they will start using the money for development of the country’s telecom and ICT sector and bridging the digital divide.

But in the draft rule, there are provisions to take different secretaries as the board members like social welfare ministry, operators said.

“The money should be spent for the development of telecom and ICT sector, creating connectivity as happened in different other countries earlier,” said another executive from a different mobile phone operator.

BTRC had sent a draft rules on SoF to the Ministry of Post and Telecommunication in June 2012. The telecom ministry forwarded it to the finance ministry for approval.

After the launch of the fund in late 2011, the regulator realised Tk22.3 crore during the last two months of that year.

In 2012, BTRC received Tk414m in first quarter, Tk43.7 crore in second quarter, Tk45.7 crore in third quarter and Tk43 crore in fourth quarter while in 2013, it collected Tk43.7 crore in the first quarter and another 93.6 crore from the last two quarter.

Although it is mandatory for all six operators, two operators the privately-run Citycell and the state-run Teletalk have not paid any amount so far. BTRC, however, kept its eyes close.

An official in BTRC’s accounts department said the two operators’ money would have added Tk15 crore to Tk17.5 crore in extra to the fund.

Source: Dhaka Tribune


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