WHAT IS WRONG WITH SOMALI TELECOM SECTOR? PARLIAMENT?

Mareeg.com-the 16th of May 2014, the Somali Ministerial Council Passed the Somali Telecommunication law with no dissenting vote among the Ministers. This is a huge step forward, a historical record for any Somali government cabinet to get a telecommunication law passed within such a short time. However, what will it take to get it passed by parliament? 

The Minister of Post and Telecommunication, HE Mohamed Ibrahim tried his best to get other more profound issues within the confusing Somali telecommunication sector resolved. Over the last few weeks there were encouraging rumors from Mogadishu that the minister was in a very serious discussions to resolve the interconnection issue. It might be useful to explain what the interconnection is all about? 

Simply put, the Somali citizens are victimized by the Somali telecom sector by forcing them to buy many simcards or mobile phones just to communicate! This is absurd. Illegal, unethical, immoral and bad business practice. No other country punishes its citizens like this. Just pause a minute and reflect on this…. the successful Somali (not foreign owned as far as we are told so far) telecom operators could not agree on commercial basis to work together. So they have decided to discontinue the interconnectivity. 

But what about the customers? Is there no government to stop this madness? What about the international laws that govern this sector? Where can the Somali Citizen turn to for help? Why should the Somali citizen should be punished just because the operators could not agree on their internal pricing. This is internal issue for the operators to resolve? In fact it is not even a legal issue… because the operators were interconnected before without any law forcing them to do so. But if greed and appetite for market dominance lead them stray on the expense of the innocent Somali citizen, it is time for the government to intervene and right this wrong urgently. Failing to do so simply means the government has failed its citizens. 

The newly appointed Minister of Telecommunication inherited this problem. Having spent many years in this sector, he anticipated the operators’ standard tactic which they successfully used and have won over the last few years… making sure they delay all processes to improve the services they provide to their customers, i.e. enable interconnectivity or pay tax for the spectrum they use, or tax on the millions they earn from the Somali citizens to the Somali government, etc. by simply saying there is now law. 

Now the newly appointed Minister have drafted a law and managed to get it passed through the Cabinet, will the Somali parliamentarians have the moral fortitude to discharge their responsibility and enact this law? The Somali parliament’s record so far indicates that there is a very slim chance for this to pass through parliament, not because the parliamentarians have objections or different views. Simply because the Somali parliament is dysfunctional. This is a parliament whose speaker travels and pontificates at the Italian parliament when the most important task for the parliament was on the table. The Somali parliament delayed the passing of the government budget for months while the whole country’s economy was grinding to halt. Why was this delayed? Who delayed and what can be done about this? Unless Somalis can answer this question, there is absolutely no chance of ever getting anything useful from this disgraceful bunch of so-called parliamentarians. Someone should be punished for causing so much suffering and economic loss. If this cannot be done, let us not kid ourselves… we have to admit failure and consider the Italians to come back and colonize us. After all the speaker of our parliament opted to socialize and speak to the Italian parliamentarians while ignoring and failing to do his primary responsibility. 

What the Somali government and people must understand is that not passing the budget was a calculated mean tactic to create tension, divert attention and start blaming and finger pointing exercise while the real task of the parliamentarians were ignored. By failing to pass the budget, government employees could not get paid, therefore they could not pay their bills, rents, etc…. the multiplier effect did the rest. So the damage caused was beyond embarrassing the government or pointing finger at its leaders, but billions of dollars were lost over that period due to the lack liquidity within the economy (a concept not the speaker of the parliament cannot comprehend, let alone the sad figures playing parliamentarians). 

So what is the link between the failure of the telecom sector and our parliament? Simply, both are in a business that they do not know its rules and its implications. The Somali parliament must do its job and be honest to the people they represent (even if they were selected in a messy process). The parliamentarians must do their job (is a wishful thinking)… if they cannot even turn up for meetings, how can they represent us? This is a shameful, a disgrace and very humiliating to all Somalis in front of the international community. The telecom sector needs to reform urgently, realize that the world has changed and accept the rule of law. It is illegal, unethical, and immoral and against all laws civil and religious to punish the Somali customer just because the telecom operators could not agree on their rates or the price to enable interconnectivity. Imagine how inconvenient, expensive it is to carry many mobile phones just to communicate, a human right, that is protected by an international law. Whatever happened to the basic Islamic trade principles? Let alone to be kind to each other.

By:
Barkhad Hiirad (barkhadcase@gmail.com)