THE SUBMARINE CABLE SAGA
Integrity International, an organization based in UK reveals corruption in mammoth proportion in the deal of linking Bangladesh to a submarine cable consortium. It says:
"The corrupt Telecom Minister, Mr. Muhammad Aminul Hoque, allowed Singapore Telecom to pull off possibly the largest and most ruinous public procurement scam in the history of Bangladesh, violating the Constitution of Bangladesh on a grand scale, masterminding a blueprint, as evident from the trail of evidence of massive tampering of information and violation of procurement rules, for plundering BTTB's (Bangladesh Telegraph & Telephone Board) revenue from international traffic estimated to be hundreds of millions of Taka and projected to grow exponentially after the commissioning of the submarine cable network called SEA-ME-WE-4 (South East Asia Middle East Western Europe-4)."
The site has details of how a legitimate international tender was thrown out for no other reason than the prospect of inconceivable enrichment through accepting another backdoor unsolicited proposal from Singtel (a Singapore based Telecommunication company), which has already set foot in Bangladesh acquaring large share of a local cellular company citycell. The catch is that the original tender had an upgradable capacity of 960gbps whereas now BTTB will be having only 10gbps connectivity, which will be exhausted in a couple of years. Now, as Bangladesh is linked with the consortium, the other members of the consortium would also be able to sell their bandwidth in Bangladesh in more competitive rate than BTTB. Singtel has already obtained license for providing Internet through VSAT from Bangladesh and they will only have to invest $15 million to add a backbone in Bangladesh to provide their service. If BTTB wants more bandwith to meet the growing demand, it will have to invest in another connection.
Integrity International reveals that Bangladesh has already lost $250 million in revenue in the two years delay of the project due to retendering. And Bangladesh will loose exponential revenue growth to other companies like Singtel & Bharti Telecom because BTTB was not allowed to safeguard its legitimate interests in the original SEAMEWE-4 negotiations.
This submarine cable has become a curse on Bangladesh after the in mid eighties Ershad military government turned down an offer by another consortium to add Bangladesh with no cost (only they wanted the cable placed through Bangladesh Sea waters). It is said that Ershad was convinced by a report wrote by an arts graduate army major (in charge of communication ministry), which cited that it is a ploy to smuggle all Bangladeshi information through this cable. Some blame the digital divide; I say it is sheer bad luck for Bangladesh that this potential sector forever allured the Bangladeshis.