BEIRUT: The Telecoms Ministry issued a statement Friday dismissing what it said was “a campaign to undermine” the achievements made by Minister Boutros Harb, including doubling the ministry’s income by increasing the number of Internet and mobile phone users.
The statement charged that Harb was being subjected to a “systematic campaign to undermine his work and tarnish his image” in the public opinion.
It was referring to recent reports on Internet speed and growth of mobile phone networks internationally in which Lebanon ranked very low.
“The reports on Lebanon’s low ranking worldwide are true, but it is also true that the reports were issued before Feb. 15, 2014, the date when Minister Harb took over the ministry from his predecessor,” the statement said.
The statement said the reports that were used to criticize Harb’s performance “actually reflected the bad shape in which telecommunications stood before he stepped in.”
According to the statement, landline use increased from 63 to 73 percent as a result of reforms introduced by Harb shortly after taking over the reins, while mobile phone users grew by 240,000, reaching 4.12 million, a 3.4 percent increase from last year.
The statement said the number of subscribers using 3G Internet service climbed from 2.036 million to 2.427 million, equivalent to an annual increase of 38 percent.
The growth in the use of telecommunications services doubled revenues generated by the ministry from $44 million in January to $88 million in June, the statement added.
Harb slashed the prices of phone and Internet services within weeks of replacing former Telecom Minister Nicolas Sehnaoui, reducing tariffs on local and international calls and cellular fees.
The telecoms sector is a vital money-earner, generating over $1.5 billion for the treasury each year.