Strong commission needed to implement competition law

The Daily Star, Bangladesh, July 03, 2012

Implementation of the competition law is only possible under an independent and powerful commission,speakers said at a seminar yesterday.

The government will need a strong political will to properly select the members of the commission and allow them to work independently, they said.

The Competition Law 2012 that got passage in parliament last month is aimed at ensuring a healthy competition in business practices by breaking cartels and syndicates that often manipulate markets.

Bangladesh has a number of commissions but those became inactive or could not create trust, they added.

They were speaking at an international conference on “moving the competition law agenda forward in Bangladesh: possible implementation concerns” at Ruposhi Bangla Hotel in the city.

The law also aims to help promote economic development of the country by creating a better environment for the private sector in terms of efficiency in production and pricing decisions and benefit both consumers and producers.

The government will form Bangladesh Competition Commission to ensure a competitive environment in the market, according to the law.

Leading businessman Syed Manzur Elahi said confidence of the stakeholders grows only when right people are seen in the right place.

In a panel discussion, he said businesspeople are aware of the tax ombudsman but they do not go there due to a lack of confidence in that office.

Commerce Minister Ghulam Muhammed Quader inaugurated the seminar jointly organised by development agencies Unnayan Shamannay and CUTS International with the support of IFC-BICF, an institution of the World Bank Group.

The minister said most of the aspects regarding competition have been covered by the law. “It’s pro-people and pro-business,” he said, adding that the law is not too complicated to be understood.

Awareness of the people is required to implement the law, he added.

The law has provision for imposing a bar on any individual from signing any agreement with a producer of any commodity or service that may have a negative impact or create a monopoly or oligopoly.

Upon investigation, the commission can order the individual to refrain from signing such an agreement or misusing any power. It may also impose a fine on individuals if found guilty.

An individual may be punished with a jail term of a maximum of one year for violation of any order of the commission or a fine of Tk 1 lakh per day for the number of days it fails to comply with the order, according to the law.

About the complicacies in the implementation of the competition law, Pradeep S Mehta, secretary general of CUTS International, said there are always some ambiguities in countries for multiple regulatory authorities’ common interests.

Giving an example, he said the competition commission’s jobs may overlap with that of the power and energy regulatory commission or the telecom commission.

Bangladesh can learn about the implementation of the law from the neighboring countries such as India and Pakistan, said Mehta who was involved in drafting the Indian competition law.

Iftekhar Hossain, economic adviser to the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), said responsibility of a welfare government lies with the establishment of a competitive environment for doing business.

The competition law is needed to improve productivity, innovation and new entrepreneurship, said Prof William Kovacic, former commissioner at Federal Trade Commission of the USA.

Steve Jobs became Apple’s chief executive though he started business from a garage, Kovacic said, adding that Jobs could succeed as the US market was competitive for new innovations.

Lawmaker Fazle Rabbi Miah and Trustee of Gonoshasthya Kendra Zafarullah Chowdhury also spoke.

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