?If Lula wins the presidential election, the big surprise for the telecommunications industry is that there won?t be any surprises,? a senior policymaker in the Workers Party (PT) told TELETIME News Wednesday, October 2. Privatization won?t be reviewed or reversed, he promised, while reiterating the party?s criticisms of the process for ?lack of transparency, lack of integration with industrial policy, and hasty technological options?. A PT Administration will broaden negotiations with the industry on changes to the General Telecoms Act, rate setting, and technology, he added. This doesn?t mean the PT has no ideas of its own for the industry. On the contrary, several have been advocated by congressmen such as Jorge Bittar, representing Rio de Janeiro in the lower house and seen as fairly open to the industry?s demands, or Walter Pinheiro, representing Bahia and considered more ?interventionist?. While Dep. Pinheiro is closer to Lula, Dep. Bittar usually wins arguments in Congress. Here are some of the PT?s ideas:
* The Communications Ministry should stop playing a political role (with influence on broadcasting license grants etc.) and instead focus on the formulation of policy for strategic issues such as credit and import substitution. Some PT leaders also say the ministry should stop transferring civil servants to Anatel, draining the Executive of its best brains.
* Anatel needs to be strengthened in its role as enforcer of public policy, equipped with a more comprehensive vision and empowered to act as something between a regulator and a technical overseer.
* Interconnection – A number of leading policymakers in the PT, including Dep. Bittar, say Anatel hasn?t been impartial enough in arbitrating disputes between long-distance carriers and ILECs. They believe Embratel and Intelig have been given a bad deal by having to pay the interconnect rates demanded by incumbent local carriers, two of which are now their direct competitors in long distance. Some PT leaders advocate a separation of infrastructure leasing from service provision so as to ensure neutrality. But there?s no consensus on this and a Lula Administration won?t take measures unilaterally in this arena, sources say.
* The party?s position on user rates is that there should be special concessions for low-income groups but this should be done ?in a balanced way so as not to jeopardize operator profitability or spend the taxpayer?s money?. The usual solution advanced is to reduce taxes or introduce ?telephone vouchers? for the poor. ?It would have to be part of a comprehensive tax reform because most taxes on telecoms are collected by state governments,? says a PT leader.
* Mergers & acquisitions – Because the PT generally favors negotiated solutions, it?s unlikely to sponsor reform in this area. The General Telecoms Act prohibits telco ownership changes until the second half of next year.