The government could not finalise the new schedule for the auction of 3G licences

ISLAMABAD (MEDIA)

The government could not finalise the new schedule for the auction of 3G licences on as two key ministers were not present at the meeting.

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) could not present fresh dates for the auction and reiterated its old stance of completing the transaction in the third week of June, officials told The Express Tribune.

The meeting of the cabinet committee on auction of 3G spectrums and defunct Instaphone licence ended inconclusively.

According to an informed official, Petroleum Minister Dr Asim Hussain and Minister for Water and Power Syed Naveed Qamar failed to attend the meeting.  Because of their absence, the lone minister, Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh was unable to pass directives.

The telecom sector watchdog has already scrapped the earlier plan to auction the licences of 3G and Instaphone, scheduled for last week of March.

The officials said PTA informed the meeting that it needed more time to workout new modalities. The PTA’s stance is contrary to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s instructions who had directed the watchdog to complete the process before March. Even both major players, PTA and Ministry of Information Technology could not even hold a formal meeting to resolve the issue, they added.

PTA Chairman Dr Mohammed Yaseen did not respond to written questions sent to him regarding the meeting’s outcome.

However, an official of the information technology ministry confirmed that the status quo on auction was maintained. He said the committee stressed the need to complete the process as early as possible.

The government is expecting to raise almost a billion dollar through these auctions to restrict the widening budget deficit. If the deal does not materialise, it will increase the deficit by Rs75 billion or 0.35 per cent of Gross Domestic Product.

The finance ministry is opposing the idea to stretch the process till June. According to the information memorandum, the successful bidder will have to deposit half of the bid amount upfront while the remaining amount will be deposited within two months. Any amount coming after June 30 will have no impact on lowering the deficit as the next fiscal year will commence on July 1.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 15th, 2012.

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