Competition Policy can promote sustainable development

December 11, 2014, Islamabad

Effective competition policy can help promote and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals being proposed after the end of the MDG Campaign end of 2015.

Participants at a CUTS-SDPI Panel Session on Competition Policy and Sustainable Development held here today echoed their views on the debate on whether competition policy can help promote sustainable development.

Over 30 participants which included many youth attended a lively session which was chaired by Dr. Joseph Wilson, Chairman, Competition Commission of Pakistan. Panellists included Pradeep S. Mehta, Secretary General, CUTS International; Roubina Ather, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Commerce; Nadia Tahir, Professor of Economic, Bahria University and Nadeem Iqbal, The Network of Consumer Protection, Pakistan.

“Rivalry leads to firms aiming at producing at lower costs to beat their competitors which results in lesser consumption of resources, thus reducing the environmental burden”, said Mr Mehta. “Poverty is the biggest polluter hence addressing poverty is intrinsic to sustainable development. The poor also get worst off when the market doesn’t function well, hence an effective competition regulatory regime is essential”.

Dr Wilson said that competition is essentially about promoting fair markets for consumers and not necessarily about controlling prices or increasing the number of players.

Mr Iqbal spoke about unfair trade practices indulged in by firms through deceptive claims and lamented the understanding of corporates under the Competition Law being treated as consumers. Both Dr Wilson and Mr Mehta responded that firms are also consumers of many services such as telephone or banking and of intermediate goods and thus any abuse they incur results in higher costs of production which then transfers to their end consumers.

Ms Ather proposed that there is a need for a regional competition policy to deal with cross border anticompetitive practices. She also spoke about non tariff barriers as being another hindrance to smooth flow of goods across the borders. In response, it was pointed out by Mr Mehta that many of the NTBs are due to standards (and procedures) rather than anticompetitive practices which needs further work on harmonisation and mutual recognition of standards.

From the floor, Anam Khan of SDPI questioned the dilemma about competition and sustainable development. It was pointed out that for different objectives different instruments are required and one cannot use the competition law to address health, safety and environment issues. In order to do it better policy coherence is required, was the response she got from the pane