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Mexico's president reevaluating role of independent energy regulators

·2 min read

MEXICO CITY, Jan 14 (Reuters) - Mexico's independent energy regulators should be absorbed into other government agencies to cut costs and avoid duplication, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Thursday, despite criticism doing so would hurt oversight efforts in the sector.

Critics have said scrapping the regulators would be a major step backwards for agencies meant to ensure a level playing field among state-run companies, like national oil company Pemex, and private ones.

But Lopez Obrador doubled down, blasting again the "golden age of bureaucracy" during his regular daily news conference.

"So why is there Pemex, the board of Pemex, if there are another three independent bodies related to Pemex?" he asked. "Why is there an energy ministry when there are an additional ten independent bodies?"

Mexico's president appoints the energy minister, chief executive officer of Pemex as well as the heads of the energy regulators.

The business-friendly 2013-2014 liberalization of the energy market pushed through by his predecessor, Enrique Pena Nieto, has created an "unbelievable" amount of duplication, said Lopez Obrador.

Among the regulators the president has previously singled out are the National Hydrocarbons Commission (CNH) and the Energy Regulatory Commission (CRE). He did not explicitly mention them on Thursday.

Both were created years before Pena Nieto's term and were designed to be impartial market referees that make decisions based on technical grounds.

Neither the CNH or CRE immediately responded to requests for comment.

Lopez Obrador has long argued that private firms have been allowed too big a role in the sector at the expense of Pemex.

He said there are some 200 independent bodies in the country with a combined budget of 500 billion pesos ($25.35 billion) and his goal is to avoid duplication.

"We can assign the functions of these bodies to existing parts of the government," Lopez Obrador said. "We will save because we need to support the poor." ($1 = 19.7231 Mexican pesos) (Reporting by Stefanie Eschenbacher and David Alire Garcia Editing by Paul Simao)