By Hrant Aleksanian in Stepanakert
The authorities in Stepanakert are considering leasing Nagorno-Karabakh's telephone network to a Lebanese firm which is prepared to inject millions of dollars into the sector, a senior official said over the weekend. According to Arnold Abrahamian, minister for economic and structural reforms, the Karabakh government is in final talks with the PMF telecom operator over the terms of the deal.
"The Lebanese firm PMF is to submit its business plans, and, depending on how much they propose to invest, we will decide whether to give it an operating license," Abrahamian told RFE/RL. He said the company has already expressed readiness to invest $10 million in the state-run Artsakhkap operator within the next two years, which was damaged severely during the 1991-94 war with Azerbaijan and has seen no major capital investments ever since.
The authorities estimate that up to $30 million worth of investments are needed to upgrade and replace the obsolete equipment of Artsakhkap. Abrahamian said that, unlike Armenia where the 1998 sell-off of the ArmenTel monopoly remains a highly controversial issue, Karabakh will not privatize its phone network in the foreseeable future.