An interesting story that has been brewing in Jamaica during July came to another critical point yesterday, as Solutrea Jamaica Ltd (formerly Biscom), decided to pull out its investment in Jamaica's telecom sector (see report in Jamaica Gleaner). Solutrea had been granted recently a licence to become a new player in the mobile phone market. Concerns had been raised about the company's integrity as a result of its failure to pay a fee, by a specified due date. Mr. Keith Walker, CEO of Solutrea, reportedly said that 'politicisation' and harsh comments in the media had caused company shareholders to conclude that the timing of its Jamaica project was not favourable. The company had been due to make investments of some US$50 million. It had been granted a mobile licence effective June 1 this year, and was due to pay a fee of J$500 million (about US$7.5 million, or BS$15 million) by end-June. Reportes indicate that the payment was made, but in mid-July, and the government decided to revoke the licence.The company will return the licence and the government is expected to return all the money paid so far by Solutrea.
Jamaica's Cabinet ordered an enquiry into the affair, and Technology Minister Phillip Paulwell has been under pressure to resign, amid questions regarding conditions for granting the licence and possible conflicts of interest. Remember that Jamaica is in the run-up to general elections, so this affair is likely to find itself high in the political rhetoric that will flow in coming weeks. The opposition party has indicated it will release its findings on the affair.
Mr. Walker is reportedly based in Barbados, so it will be interesting to see what fall out occurs there.
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