Digicel takeover: failure and opportunity
First the Cortizo administration allowed a merger between certain Internet operations of Cable & Wireless Panama and Claro, giving the combined company some 56 percent of the cell phone and Internet business in the country. That left Millicom subsidiary Tigo and Ireland-based Digicel to split the difference as junior competitors. But on April 6 Digicell filed for voluntary liquidation, arguing that after having made major investments that had not become profitable, it was unsustainable it to continue in business in the reconfigured Panamanian market.
The Cortizo administration, like those of Varela and Martinelli before it, has been friendly to the idea of telecommunications market monopolies. In one sense, there was open advocacy of having fewer companies operating in Panama, especially during the Varela administration. All along, concession contracts that called for national coverage were routinely ignored, as were anti-competitive agreements to divide Panama into telecom turfs.
Come the disaster of the COVID epidemic and it turned out that with their monopolistic configuration the Panamanian telecom industry left significant areas of Panama beyond the Internet’s reach for online remote schooling.
Will another disaster yet strike? There are some remote areas, some of special interest to those trying to fight the “War on Drugs” and others where illegal mass migrations across our borders take place, where Digicel was left as the local cell phone provider. So is it just a natural and acceptable result of “the invisible hand of the market” that people living in those areas can’t call the cops if a major crime is taking place in front of them?
To just allow those consequences isn’t really viable. Nor does it seem viable to find some other private company to take up the position that Digicell is abandoning. Perhaps the Digicel operations might go to Tigo or the post-merger industry leader. But in the meantime, there are people, businesses and government institutions that need to keep their phone services going.
Thus on April 28 the public utilities authority (ASEP) took over Digicell Panama to preserve the jobs and keep the services running while the government figures out what to do.
Like the hit that Panamanian tourism took when two Dutchwomen got lost in a national park, could not find a cell phone connection to call for help and died in a flash flood, this is a disaster. Maybe not so serious a disaster as an epidemic that kills more than 8,000 people here, but one that threatens to leave yet other parts of our country incommunicado.
A government that leaves market worship to philosophy classes and gets down to the tasks or running this country would be well advised to keep Digicel, build upon it, and run it as a public component of a mixed national telecom industry. Owning 49 percent of the shares of the telecom companies but leaving all control in private hands isn’t really much public ownership. In fact it’s a structure that encourages corruption — instead of sharing profits with the government companies can pay their executives exaggerated sums and report that after expenses there aren’t any profits to share. A truly public telecom operation lets the country serve areas not served, compete with companies that give poor service where they have no competitors and be fully connected to confront emergencies big or small when they inevitably arise.
Don’t sell Digicel. Keep it and run it wisely in the public interest.
Florida governor Ron DeSantis using black boys to register objections to a subject that he forbids them to learn. They don’t look very happy about it. Do we want to get into the evolving over the generations Black English epithets for African-Americans who become the tools of white supremacists? To do so would get a white person accused of racism, but the better reason not to get into that is because these are just kids who are being manipulated by unscrupulous politicians. From an AP photo of a Republican rally in the Palm Beach area.
Be aware of language and its abuses
“Woke” is a contemporary Black English term popularized by musician Erykah Badu about a decade and a half ago. In politics, it was widely used by Republican false persona trolls in the 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns to flood black and progressive social media groups with messages that it’s “woke” for black people to abstain from voting, or to cast spurious votes in 2020 for Kanye West.
(Shall we get into a one-word characterization by a prominent black person of West, who garnered some 60,000 votes out of some 160 million cast in 2020? The word is “jackass” and the characterization as to West was coined by Barack Obama.)
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “woke” as a slang adjective meaining “aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice).” Essence Magazine editor complains about the way that the term is now used, especially by those who LIKE racial and social injustice and their proxies or fake personas: “terms indigenous to our way of thinking or advocating get co-opted and distorted beyond recognition in mainstream society.”
Is the GOP running on “anti-wokeness” this year? It’s just old-fashioned white supremacy, the sour old vintage marketed in new bottles this time.
Bronze sculpture of Rachel Carson by Una Hanbury, at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. Photo by Bailey614.
Those who dwell, as scientists or laymen, among the beauties and mysteries of the earth, are never alone or weary of life.
Bear in mind…
The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.
Mohandas K. Gandhi
Surely something resides in this heart that is not perishable, and life is more than a dream.
The cause of Freedom and the cause of Peace are bound together.
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