New CTO Appointment
Economics of Going Green
State of Caribbean Media
Passport to Paradise
Death Sentence in 2 Years
Priest Thinks Twice
Charges & CounterCharges
Communication in Tourism
Moves to Oust Savarin
WIBC Settles with Gregory
UWP Leadership Question
Threat to State College?
Why Marpin Was Rejected
Sanford Now In Barbados
Hotels Threaten Shutdown
Urban Baron to Cross Floor
Lestrade & Stabilisation
Urban Baron Did Not Cross
PM Charles Tightens Grip
Search for New President
Tension at N.D.C.
New Independent Party?
AT & T in Dominica
Curtis Matthiew - DFP?
Sonia Williams - Indep...
SARS in Toronto, Canada
Bobby - Independent?
Casino Gambling Begins
Formal Opening of DSC
End of Douglas Dynasty?
Wage Bill Cut
DLP Want Theodore Fired
DFP Virtually Dead
PM's Fiscal Adjustment
Dr Etienne to PAHO
Relations with China?
Sam Raphael Resigns
Tour de Dominica Politics
PJ on Independence
Politics 25 Years Later
Cure For Aids Mooted
DSS Stymied by IMF
New Development at CTO
The Silent Killer
Grenada & Hurricane Ivan
Regional Tourism Security
Making Millions on Haitians
UWP Falling Apart
© Johnson JohnRose
MARPIN's Rejection - Is It Personal?
With Marpin Telecoms and Broadcasting Company Limited (Marpin) having failed in yet another bid to secure a licence from the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL) to operate a mobile phone service, officials of the local company have again taken the attack to the Minster of Communications and Works, Reginald Austrie.
"It is personal," Marpin spokesman Duncan Stowe told the Sun. "I am confident that if any other government comes into office we will get our licence."
Stowe was convinced that the minister "has never forgiven us for comments (that questioned the integrity of the minister) we made about him" during several months of "agitation" by Marpin for a licence to operate a fixed line telephone service; a sentiment also expressed by Ron Abraham, Marpin's chief executive officer.
"During our agitation we shared with Dominicans certain information. The minister took it personally and is making Marpin pay for it," Abraham contended.
Minister Austrie has flatly denied Marpin's claims, repeating an often stated position that applications for telecommunications licences go to ECTEL for processing after going through the National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (NTRC), and that the minister is only advised by the NTRC after a decision has been taken on whether or not to grant a licence.
In June 2000, five Eastern Caribbean states - Dominica, Grenada, St.Kitts/Nevis, St.Lucia and St.Vincent and the Grenadines - passed harmonised telecommunications laws that paved the way for the establishment of ECTEL.
Part three of the Act states that after a person has applied for a licence, the application will be reviewed by ECTEL, which will make the appropriate recommendation to the minister through the local telecommunications commission.
"The Minister in deciding whether or not to grant a licence will take into account ECTEL's recommendation, the purpose of the Treaty and the public's interest," it states.
"Marpin can only claim unfairness, if ECTEL recommends (that they be granted a licence) and the minister does not grant it. To date, for all the times Marpin have applied and reapplied, they have always failed the criteria (and) if ECTEL says no, I can only act accordingly," Austrie told the Sun.
In order to be granted a licence, the applicant must satisfy three key requirements - legal, technical and financial, ECTEL has stated.
While Marpin has satisfied the first two, the local company has been unable to convince the evaluators that it has or can raise the necessary funding to offer a mobile phone service.
And in what appears to be a twist of irony, the company that fought for the liberalisation of the telecommunications sector in Dominica, and by extension the Eastern Caribbean, appears to be too broke to take full advantage of liberalisation.
"Things are very tough (with us financially)," Abraham, also a director, admitted to the Sun, although he refused to give details of the company's financial position.
But the Sun has learned that the company has outstanding debts of over EC$10 million, including over EC$4 million to Barclays Bank and over EC$5 million to the National Commercial Bank.
The situation is so bad that Barclays Bank has cut Marpin's overdraft facility by 50 percent and financial institutions have refused to grant the company any loans, admitted Abraham who, as CEO, receives a monthly salary of EC$14,000 in addition to allowances. His wife who is manager of broadcasting, is paid about EC$6000, according to Duncan Stowe, although other sources have told the sun that it was closer to EC$10,000.
Stowe, an attorney, has defended Abraham's salary insisting that the CEO was extremely valuable to the company.
"There isn't another person in Dominica that can run Marpin the way that Ron (Abraham) does. He really knows the terrain. To replace Ron you will need about three people, or four," Stowe asserted.
In any event, he said, a "particular director" had received over a million dollars in brokerage fees over the years, "because he is a guarantor."
In an attempt to meet the financial requirement that ECTEL demanded after turning down a previous application, Marpin entered a joint venture arrangement with a US-based company, Pan Caribbean Holdings, and formed a new company solely for the purpose of offering a mobile phone service.
Pan Caribbean Holdings would own 65 percent of the new company called Marpin Wireless and Marpin Telecoms and Broadcasting would contribute its licence for a 35 percent share, something Austrie said the local company could not do because the licence remained the property of the government.
ECTEL rejected the submission stressing that it was Marpin Telecoms and Broadcasting and not Marpin Wireless that had applied for a licence; that Marpin Wireless had not met the January 30, 2002 deadline for submitting an application for a licence; and that Marpin Telecoms and Broadcasting had again failed to provide the necessary information to satisfy the regulators that it was financially viable.
"Due to the fact that Marpin Wireless is a separate and distinct legal entity MTBC (Marpin Telecoms and Broadcasting Co. Ltd) cannot lawfully rely on the purported strength of Marpin Wireless in order to satisfy the financial requirements of the evaluation process," then managing director of ECTEL, Donnie DeFreitas wrote to the chairman of the NTRC, Dr. Nicholas Liverpool.
In the letter dated October 4, 2002, a copy of which was obtained by the Sun, DeFreitas emphasized that it was Marpin that was required to satisfy the evaluators of its sound financial standing and that it had failed to do so.
"It cannot attempt to call to its aid the unsubstantiated source of funds from an unproven entity that is at best, separate and distinct," he wrote. "Accordingly, ECTEL recommends that MTBC be not granted a Public Mobile Telecommunications Licence."
In a letter dated October 14, 2002 the minister of communications relayed the ECTEL decision to Abraham.
The Marpin CEO told the Sun he would reply to the minister soon but he refused to divulge what he would state in his letter.