|Carrying a flag in today's march: ETB is Colombia!|
Throughout Latin America, publicly owned companies have come to represent sovereignety and nationalism. When I lived in La Paz, Bolivia a decade ago, nationalists defended 'our proudly Bolivian' public telephone company from privatization - even tho the company took more than a year to install a phone line, charged $1,000 for the privilege and changed people's phone numbers so frequently and randomly that their own phone book was useless.
|Communist newspaper 'Voz' says:|
'Whoever is with ETB, is with me!'
That's a micro problem. More broadly, the company's Internet service is anemic, its repair service is mediocre and its core business, fixed-line telephone service, is slowly going the way of camera film and the printed newspaper. It's no surprise that, while ETB is still profitable, its market share and profitability are both falling - profitability by 50% since 2007. (And its market share is protected by the fact that in many parts of the city, such as where I live, they are the only available telephone provider.) Analysts I've read seem to agree that, unless ETB recieves more investment soon, it will lose out to bigger and better managed competitors. ETB already tried to get into the celular phone market and lost the competition and sold its subsidiary.
Colombia's had disappointing experiences with privatization, including that of Telecom. And it's got successful publicly-owned companies, including EcoPetrol and EPM, Medellin's public services conglomerate. But ETB doesn't look like it's in any position to repeat the success of EPM (check out their Wikipedia entry, apparently written by EPM's own p.r. office), a huge, highly diversified company. I wish that it could, as EPM's profits have helped Medellin transform itself into a modern, sophisticated city.
|Billiard hall owners participated in the march, protesting a law prohibiting liquor sales after 11 p.m. Apparently, being able to sell intoxicating liquors at all hours is patriotic and perhaps even leftist.|
|Lots of communists participated in the march. When your allies |
have a proven successful business model like this one...
|More of the communist contingent.|
|A wall graffiti declares: 'ETB is not sold.'|
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours