PM Wescot-Williams repeats: “No decision about TelEm-UTS merger”

POSTED: 06/20/14 12:03 AM

St. Maarten – Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams repeated it for good measure during yesterday’s Council of Ministers press briefing: “Notwithstanding all that has been said, there is no decision about a merger. UTS has been selected as one of the partners to engage into a discussion with about a possible merger. I emphasize that this is not a done deal as far as TelEm is concerned.”

The prime minister, who is the shareholder representative for the government-owned company TelEm, addressed the criticism on the timeline, as expressed by UP-leader Theo Heyliger who said on Monday that TelEm is a slow technological company.

“It was a conscious decision by TelEm to put the merger on the backburner and to take care of the restructuring of the company first,” Wescot-Williams said. “The company did not want to get into negotiations from a position of weakness.”

Other factors play a role as well, like the political developments surrounding UTS in Curacao, and the so-called weighing factors. “The cultural and social fit does not only play with UTS but with other candidates as well,” Wescot-Williams said. “That means maintaining jobs for the people of St. Maarten.”

The prime minister said that the UTS branch in St. Maarten also employs locals who have mortgages and families to take off. That is a point to take into consideration as well.”

While Parliament focuses on the merger between TelEm and UTS, Wescot-Williams warned that nothing is certain. “When two dogs fight for a bone, a third may run away with it,” she quoted a Dutch proverb, referring to the fact that UTS Eastern Caribbean is now an independent entity. “What stops them from getting together with another company?”

Addressing criticism from UP-leader Theo Heyliger Wescot-Williams said that TelEm had lobbied for a moratorium on mobile concessions. “There are others that could come in and merge with UTS, thereby jeopardizing TelEm’s position. Companies with a lot of money could take TelEm out of the running.”

Wescot-Williams said, not without reason, that she had not been amused by the attitude of Parliament, after all members received elaborate written answers to questions they had submitted about the possible merger last week Thursday, ahead of the Parliament meeting on Friday. “We appeared in Parliament on Friday and the MPs wanted to go through the answers first. “Is it then wrong to assume that MPs would have additional questions on Monday?” she wondered. “I did not want to go into a tit for tat about reading the answers, but I had expected the Parliament to be ready with additional questions on Monday.”

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