Auction for 3G licences: Prime Minister asks ministry to expedite process -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Auction for 3G licences: Prime Minister asks ministry to expedite process

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf has directed the Ministry of Information Technology to expedite the process of auction for 3G licences while ensuring transparency.

The Prime Minister was chairing a meeting of the IT Ministry to review the progress made so far by the Ministry of IT and Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) for sale of 3G spectrum.

Sources said the Prime Minister was briefed by the Advisor on IT Ministry, Basit Riaz Shaikh about the steps taken to speed up the process for 3-G auction. Raja Ashraf was informed that response from the local and international firms is still awaited against advertisement for hiring of consultant. The advertisement to hire consultant for sale of 3G licence was released by the PTA in international as well as national media on August 13, 2012. The authority sought proposals from interested companies and consortia within 30 days from the date of publication.

Sources said only one week was left in the 30-day timeline for submission of proposal and PTA has not received any response against its advertisement. However, they said that PTA is optimistic that companies and consortium of international repute would turn up in last few days before the expiry of timeline for submission of proposals. Another official requesting anonymity said it is unlikely that the process would be completed before December 2012.

He said even if the process of hiring of consultant is completed before the end of calendar year, the roll out would not be completed before March 2013 which means delay in the sale of 3G spectrum to next fiscal year due to the forthcoming general elections. The country’s economic managers wanted the process to be accelerated to achieve the projected revenue of Rs 79 billion in the budget from 3G auction in the current fiscal year. Sources in the Finance Ministry said that the delay in auction would not only lead to increase in budget deficit but would also have serious consequences on external account and foreign exchange reserves.

A senior official of the Finance Ministry told Business Recorder that the government is banking on foreign inflows of $2 billion, $400 on account of Coalition Support Fund (CSF), $800 million each from Etisalat and auction of 3G licence to maintain foreign exchange reserves at comfortable level of around $12 billion by June 2013.

The auction for 3G licence was delayed last year after serious questions of transparency were raised over Auction Supervisory Committee (ASC) decision to hire a local consultant and consequently the government was compelled to hire a consultant of international repute to oversee the process to ensure transparency.

Business Recorder