My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: Digicel Haiti removes VoIP Apps Blockade – How Laurent Lamothe Administrations Corrupt Telecom Tax for FNE has French Connection

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Digicel Haiti removes VoIP Apps Blockade – How Laurent Lamothe Administrations Corrupt Telecom Tax for FNE has French Connection

Digicel Haiti has decided to backtrack on the blockade of VoIP Apps in Haiti after closed door meetings on Tuesday July 16th 2014 with the Haitian Government as stated in “Digicel will unblock all apps by midnight in Haiti”, published Wednesday, July 16, 2014 10:56 AM, The Sentinel Staff.

This after having blocked VoIP Services Viber and Nimbuzz some two (2) weeks and three (3) days prior on Sunday June 29th, 2014 as I’d reported in my blog article entitled “Digicel blocks VoIP Services Viber and Nimbuzz in Haiti - Digicel losing International Calling Revenue but will be worse when WhatsApp comes”.

According to the article, it appears to be due to the fact that the Haitian Government, led by Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, has collected a total of US$8.5 million over a period of three (3) years. This was via the implementation of an “illegal” Telecoms Tax on International Calling, the proceeds of which were funneled into the FNE (National Fund for Education).

This Telecoms Tax is very similar to the Cess and the Telecoms Tax being collected by the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining under the USF (Universal Service Fund), formerly the UAFCL (Universal Access Fund Company Limited) as explained in detail in my Geezam blog article entitled “How Network Neutrality and International Calling can thrive as TATT mediates VoIP Blockade by Digicel and LIME”.

But with one major difference; the Haitian Telecoms Tax on International Calling used to fund the FNE is illegal!

Telecoms Tax and the FNE – Greed and Corruption used to take advantage of a Crisis to stay in Power

The FNE was implemented a few weeks after Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe came to power in 2011 without legislation, something that a basic requirement to implement taxes in ANY Caribbean or International Jurisdiction. Even more unusual, the FNE isn't being collected by the Central Bank but by CONATEL, the Haitian Government's Regulatory Commission for Telecommunications.

This doesn’t look good at all!

Currently, when you make International Calls from Jamaica to Haiti, the calls are billed at a rate of US$23.00, which includes a JA$5.50 Cess or Tax that’s collected by Digicel Haiti on behalf of the Haitian Government to help in their rebuilding efforts. That Telecoms Tax is collected on BOTH outgoing and incoming International Calls and were supposed to be handed over to the Haitian Government as explained in my Geezam blog article entitled “How to set up an International Calling Plan for Digicel or LIME Prepaid and Postpaid”.

Good to note that was around the same time as the Haiti Earthquake that struck on Tuesday 12th January 2010 at 4:53 pm as recorded in my blog article entitled “Funding Haiti reconstruction is the responsibility of the French, as it is their “property””.

The FNE most likely was implemented by Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe a year later in 2011 when he came into power as an emergency measure.  The devastation wrought by the Earthquake means that money had to be found to fund National Education Projects such as rebuilding Schools as well as CAP (Community Access Points) and Internet Cafes.  Children, it seemed, had to be made to realize that a sense of normalcy was being maintained and that they were the future of Haiti.

So, taking advantage of the crisis and the concern for the children of Haiti, Laurent Lamothe, on becoming Prime Minister, implemented the Telecoms Tax in 2011. Coincidentally, this was a year before the GOJ (Government of Jamaica) implemented a separate Telecoms Tax on June 2012 as described in my blog article entitled “GOJ taxes Telecom Providers and OUR sets Cross Network and International Calling Rate at JA$5.00 - Data Services Prometheus”.

Thus the question begs? Is the Jamaican Telecoms Tax in any way influenced by the Haitian Telecoms Tax? Thoughts to ponder……

Haiti and FNE – How Digicel and Laurent Lamothe Telecoms Tax  has a French Connection

However, according to an investigation conducted in the Fourth Quarter of 2013 by the Senate Committee on Public Works and Communications, nearly 40% of the US$8.5 million worth of already illegal Telecoms Tax for the FNE was being used for “Internal Purchases” within the Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe Government. 

Sacrebleu!

There is even a school of thought that Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe is funneling the FNE money to fund his run for President of Haiti coming up in 2015. As the story goes, Mr Laurent Lamothe previously held the position of CEO of Global Voice Group.

While there, he purportedly made under-the-table financial deals i.e. bribes given to rogue African states such as Senegal, Cote de Ivore and other French-speaking African Countries in exchange for CONATEL being able to impose Taxation on International Calls to these very same African States.

If this is even true in any way, it means that CONATEL isn't just collecting a Telecoms Tax for the FNE from outbound Calls, but also from inbound Calls coming from African States. Many Haitians have relatives from French-speaking African States such as Senegal and Cote de Ivore aka the Ivory Coast living in Haiti

Thus it makes sense that the Haitian Government would seek such a tax. However, putting this conspiracy theory aside, the main problem is the illegality of the Telecoms Tax. This projected Telecoms Tax of US$8.5 million or more translates to billions of Haitian dollars going from the Telecoms Tax into Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe personal Campaign War Chest. Or in this case, 40% of the US$8.5 million collected over a three (3) year period.

Digicel Haiti and VoIP – Digicel distances itself from the corrupt Laurent Lamothe Administration

Digicel Haiti wasn’t comfortable with this, as it’s associating their Brand with corruption and the misappropriation of 40% of US$8.5 million collected over a three (3) year span. Hence the reason why they relaxed the ban on the VoIP Calling after closed door meetings on Tuesday July 16th 2014 with the Haitian Government!

Digicel Haiti apparently were not be too happy with being associated with what may be corruption. Hence the reason they backtracked, despite the fact that their decision will result in them effectively experiencing Bypass and degradation of their Voice Services.

Apparently, their reputation was worth more to them than making money from International Calling and handing over money to a Telecoms Tax that was, on the face of it, illegal as it broke a basic tenet of Law; it wasn’t legislated or even debated within their Parliaments Lower and Upper Houses.

Worse, they may find themselves being drawn into an investigation of the actions of Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe’s Administration even as he’s being investigated by the Senate Committee on Public Works and Communications. Thus by unblocking VoIP and giving the people of Haiti back their ability to make International Calls for free, Digicel Haiti is in essence distancing itself from the corrupt Administration of Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe.

In short, the reasons of the Haitian Government were noble but over time, they were corrupted by Greed and a desire to hold on to power. Or in this case, to fund the ascent of the one Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe to a higher level within the echelons of the Haitian Government!
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