Telecoms regulator resigns

18 January 2002

Mostafa Terrab, head of telecoms regulator Agence Nationale de Reglementation des Telecommunications (ANRT), tendered his resignation to King Mohammed VI on 11 January. The move threatens to strike a major blow to investor confidence in the local telecoms sector, which had previously been considered one of the pioneers of liberalisation.

Terrab, who was appointed general manager of the watchdog in 1998, told MEED in a telephone interview on 14 January that he had resigned because persistent government interference had eroded his faith in ANRT's ability to function independently.

'The autonomy of ANRT depended on members of the government refraining from interfering in everyday decisions,' Terrab said. 'Over the past year I have noticed a change in attitude that threatens the autonomy of the organisation.'

Last year, ANRT asked the government to apply sanctions to the majority state-owned Maroc Telecomfor its failure to extend a 10 per cent rebate to customers of its rival, Meditel. The government delayed in doing so, and Maroc Telecom cancelled the offer altogether. Terrab says the government has also put off calling a meeting over an interconnection dispute, the technical details of which were swiftly resolved by ANRT.

Terrab threatened to resign in November in response to proposed amendments to the telecoms act that included a change in ANRT's autonomous status (MEED 14:12:01). Following discussions, the amendments, due to be adopted later this year, will maintain the independence of ANRT. However, Terrab says that the damage has been done.

'The element of trust goes beyond an institutional relationship, it's a personal matter.I hope that now the government will be able to select a regulator it trusts to continue running ANRT.' Several members of Terrab's hand-picked team at ANRT have also announced their intention to resign.

Terrab's resignation and the perceived marginalisation of ANRT are particularly significant as the efficiency and professionalism of the regulator was often cited as an important factor in the high price of the kingdom's first GSM licence sale. Morocco was scheduled to launch its first private fixed-line licence at the end of last year, but the tender has been postponed until the changes have been made to the telecoms act (MEED 23:11:01).

The delay to the licence sale comes as the government is pressing ahead with plans to sell a further equity stake in Maroc Telecom to France's Vivendi, which acquired an initial 35 per cent in the operator at the end of 2000. The company paid MD 23,000 million (then $2,130 million) for the stake (MEED 5:1:01).

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