The government is considering waiving off the late fees, which made up almost half the Tk 13,447 crore claimed by the telecom regulator as unpaid dues from Grameenphone and Robi, as it engineers a swift end to the drawn-out tussle.
As per rules, 15 percent compound rate is applied on late fees.
Of the Tk 12,579.95 crore that Grameenphone has outstanding as per the telecom regulator’s audit, Tk 6,194.30 crore is late fees.
For Robi, late fees accounted for 19.45 percent of the Tk 867.24 crore claimed by the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission.
Both the operators vehemently dispute the amounts claimed by the commission and was willing to fight the matter in court.
“The government might be considering giving a waiver on late fees for a swift resolution,” said BTRC Chairman Md Jahurul Haque after a meeting yesterday with Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal, Telecom Minister Mustafa Jabbar, National Board of Revenue Chairman Md Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan and top BTRC officials.
But before a final decision is taken the two parties will sign a memorandum of understanding.
“We still stand by the audit findings, but the government has the final say,” he added.
The government had no intention of extending a waiver and the operators never demanded one as well, Kamal told reporters after the meeting.
“But we need to resolve this issue as fast as possible.”
The overhang of audit claim is hampering the two operators’ businesses, which, in turn, is impacting the government’s revenue collection.
“If the mobile operators earn Tk 100 the government gets Tk 53 from it. So why don’t we take a chance and resolve the problem?”
Kamal’s involvement in this tug of war between the telecom regulator and the country’s top two operators came after he waded through the reasons for the ongoing slump of the stock market.
The sinking stock price of Grameenphone, the largest listed company by market capitalisation, was a major reason for the stock market’s slide.
In a span of five months Grameenphone’s share sank 30.70 percent to Tk 289, as its regulatory issues made investors worried.
This prompted the finance minister to call a meeting with Grameenphone Chief Executive Michel Foley last week.
At the meeting, Foley informed Kamal that the stock will continue to sink if its regulatory issues prolong, which alarmed the finance minister.
As soon as his meeting with Foley wrapped up, Kamal summoned Jabbar, Bhuiyan and top BTRC officials to his office to work out an amiable solution to the deadlock.
The finance minister reiterated that the mobile operators will withdraw their cases and the government too will not move legally with the matter.
Robi and Grameenphone filed two cases with a Dhaka court earlier on August 25 and 26 respectively seeking permanent injunctions against the telecom regulator’s audit claims.
BTRC too had threatened to cancel the two operators’ 2G and 3G licences over nonpayment of the dues.
The two operators have 12.36 crore active mobile connections, which is 76 percent of the country’s total.