Mexican president evaluates merging anti-trust regulators with ministries

MEXICO CITY, Jan 7 (Reuters) - Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Thursday he will next week present his cabinet with a proposal to evaluate whether institutions including the telecommunications anti-trust regulator could be merged into ministries.

Lopez Obrador defended the idea on grounds of saving public funds to allow for priority welfare and infrastructure spending.

Critics, including a prominent commissioner of the IFT telecoms regulator, said scrapping such bodies would be a step backwards for democracy and lead to excessive concentration of power.

Since taking office, Lopez Obrador has implemented steep budget cuts, arguing his administration has trimmed wasteful expenditure.

He has frequently targeted so-called autonomous institutions, such as an office working on government transparency, as ineffective and expensive. On Thursday he said a science research fund was used to rent golf courses under previous governments.

He suggested the telecoms regulator had failed to rein-in monopolistic power of some companies. The IFT has been credited with reducing the market share of billionaire Carlos Slim’s America Movil, although the company is still the largest player in the industry.

“They said that in this manner there would no be more monopolies in communications. Are there, or are there not?” he asked, suggesting during a regular news conference. “We have to review all these administrative apparatus, their function, so that there’s no duplication.”

Lopez Obrador cut his own salary in 2018 to 40% of what his predecessors earned, and created a rule that no public servant should earn more than him.

Some are still earning too much, he said and added he was planning to present a bill to Congress to further clamp down on government salaries. (Reporting by Stefanie Eschenbacher; Additional reporting by Adriana Barrera; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Lincoln Feast.)