A look at the LTA IGM project vis-à-vis the Legislature
At a time when the Liberian Government is employing mechanisms to increase its revenue generation, it is sad to detect that some are bent on plans to undermine such genuine initiative. I have read with disdain a banner story carried in the Tuesday July 31stedition of the News Newspaper that a few within the National Legislature, specifically the House of Representatives are calculating a scheme to deprive the Liberian Government and its people of resources to be accrued from the International Gateway Measuring (IGM) Project, which is being undertaken by the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA).
The IGM is a process by which inbound calls (telephone calls from abroad) are measured, subsequently charging international carriers modest regulatory fees to be paid to National Regulators; in our case the LTA purposely for the termination of all such calls on the networks of the service providers.
Localizing this venture dates back early this year when the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA), the country’s sole regulatory body and Service Providers on the one hand, and the LTA and the Legislature on the other got cut up in a protracted brawl over implementation of the project. Experts of the industry have since indicated that the exercise is geared towards maximizing revenue from the telecommunications sector.
It therefore becomes mind budding that some will attempt to obstruct such an economic-booming venture, especially at a time when the government is struggling so hard to enlarge its national pie. In the first place, the entire project undertaken by the LTA is a capital-intensive one and undoubtedly the Government of Liberia is unable to finance same.
That the LTA would singlehandedly seek to look out for potential investor to intervene in footing the huge cost attached to the project should be welcomed by all well-meaning Liberians. With the arrival of the fiber optic, one can safely declare that Liberia is at the brink of taking a giant leap in the telecommunications sector; hence attempts by anyone to undermine this progress will be met with unbending resistance.
I am informed that it was following weeks of arguments, which culminated into public hearings, the Legislature came to a conclusion that the project aspires to generate revenue for National Government and subsequently communicated with the LTA endorsing the initiative. The First Branch of government however recommended that proceeds initially intended for the LTA under the contract with Global Voice Group be instead deposited into national coffer at the Central Bank of Liberia.
Obviously the LTA would not have favored such a recommendation since research has shown that in most telecommunications jurisdictions around the world, such regulatory fees paid by the IGM go directly into the coffers of the Regulatory body.
Understandably, and not to hinder smooth commencement of the project, the LTA did not hesitate to agree on the clause inserted by the Legislature, bearing on mind that at a particular point in time it deserves the right to request the Ministry of Finance to access portion of that regulatory fee primarily for sector development, including infrastructural needs of the regulator.
Following the entire rancor to get the project moving, the LTA and the government entered into an agreement with the GVG, consequently allowing the latter to invest heavily into the acquiring of equipment as well as the hiring of technicians.
Regrettably, at a point when invoices were ready to be forwarded to service providers, some members of the Legislature have chosen to embark on a strange scheme to impede this revenue-generating venture at the detriment of the LTA and Government, including the country and its people at large.
What Is The Significance For Government To Adopt An Incoming Int’l Call Monitoring System?
An incoming international call monitoring system provides better governance and optimizes revenues for the local telecommunications sector. It is therefore important to disabuse the minds of those who embrace the notion that it is only the regulator that benefits from the exercise. Contrary to this perception, service providers also benefit immensely from the system. But aside from this, the adoption of such a system translates into the following tangible benefits:
- Increased revenues for the local telecommunications sector
- New revenue streams for governments
- Improved value for the local destination on the international calling market
As I conclude this article, it is important to remind those few elements within the Legislature on difficulties the LTA has encountered in getting to where it is today.
For some to try to disrupt its operations when the momentum is at hand to grapple with the rising challenges within the sector could warrant a complete sabotage in the general revenue intake of government. The Legislature must rethink its decision to avoid the uninterrupted flow of regulatory frameworks embarked upon by the National regulator.