Bangladesh opts for modernisation over privatisation

22 Apr 2003

The Bangladesh government has abandoned ambitious proposals to privatise its state-owned monopoly PTO Bangladesh Telegraph and Telephone Board (BTTB), opting instead to embark on a less radical programme to modernise and expand the national behemoth. According to Bangladeshi Telecommunications Minister Aminul Haque, the state hopes to‘transform BTTB into a company with powers to take financial decisions promptly for ensuring better service’. The move has been seen as a partial climb-down by the government, however, in the face of vociferous protests from BTTB’s 16,000 employees who fear they could lose their jobs as a result of a sale. The state is seemingly trying to negotiate a middle path between the demands for privatisation to create a level playing field for the industry and the threat of action from employees. In an attempt to sooth their concerns, Haque said that whilst BTTB had some ‘surplus’ employees following the completion of a project to digitalise local exchanges, the company would shift this spare capacity to work on the expansion programme. He added that Bangladesh had teamed up with 14 operators from twelve nations to link up to the internet via an undersea cable. BTTB has about 666,000 fixed lines in service and aims to float a tender to install a further 110,000 lines in the capital Dhaka. It also controls four cellular operators through foreign joint ventures which provide services to more than 1.25 million wireless users.



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