Two sources close to the Presidency responded positively to remarks by ex-minister Luiz Carlos Mendonça de Barros that the tariff review policy pursued by the Government can be construed as conforming to the terms of the telephone companies? license.
Luiz Carlos Mendonça de Barros was communications minister for a crucial period in 1998, overseeing the privatization of Telebras. He is a leading member of the opposition PSDB and publisher of Primeira Leitura, a news weekly.
In an interview published Wednesday, July 15, in Gazeta Mercantil, a business daily, Mr Mendonça de Barros acknowledged that the annual increase in the IGP-DI index far exceeded the telcos? operating costs, not to mention the real wages of telephone users. He criticized Anatel for not attempting to argue this view with the telcos, but he also accused Communications Minister Miro Teixeira of ?politicizing? the tariff question. He said the courts will eventually uphold the contractual tariff review clauses in the telcos? license. However, he predicted that the telcos won?t apply the full increase to which they?re entitled ?because users can?t pay and the telcos have plenty of excess capacity?.
One of the sources retorted that Mr Mendonça de Barros himself had merely expressed a political position in the interview. It was clearly a retreat from his initial opinion in favor of applying the IGP-DI in strict compliance with the terms of the telcos? license, as published by Primeira Leitura.
?The PSDB didn?t foresee the tidal wave of anger against the tariff hike that arose from the middle classes,? the source said. However, the source went on, the opposition?s present position matches that of the Government. Communications Minister Miro Teixeira is ?completely in tune? with President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva but ?ostensibly acted as a politician?, contrary to Finance Minister Antonio Palocci?s aim of avoiding ?stormy seas? until the end of the year.