CARICOM Competition Workshop

Speech by: Mr. Ramesh Dookhoo, Chairman, Private Sector Commission on the occasion of the Caricom Competition Workshop, Georgetown, June 24, 2010.

It is indeed an honour to be asked to address this distinguished gathering.

As we are all aware, the promotion of competition among our local and regional firms is geared towards producing greater productivity among these.  This will also spur the development of our exports since greater competition increases prospects for domestic producers to enter export markets.  Productivity growth at the level of the firm also impacts directly upon the economic growth of the country.

The idea behind regulation of competition is to provide incentives to firms to invest in improving their competitive capabilities.  Regulation of competition also ensures that firms do not restrict or distort competition in a way that prevents the free market from functioning optimally.

As we seek to move towards a single market and economy the need for greater competitiveness becomes imperative and cross-border competition regulation is needed to prevent the abuse of dominant positions in the regional marketplace.  Regulation of competition also promotes more competitive prices and prevents firms from erecting barriers to entry of the market and from engaging in anti-competitive behaviour.

In Guyana our government, mindful of the pressing need, has passed legislation aimed at spurring competition among domestic firms.  This legislation, the Competition and Fair Trading Act, which was passed in 2006, seeks to:

(a) promote, maintain and encourage competition and enhance economic efficiency;
(b) prohibit anti-competitive business conduct which restricts competition or constitutes the abuse of a dominant position; and
(c) promote the welfare of consumers.

Since there is also a need to protect the vulnerable position of consumers in the free market, the Government has also enacted the Consumer Protection Act which establishes a body that seeks, inter alia, to:

(a) promote and protect consumer rights;
(b) represent the collective interests of consumers before judicial and administrative bodies;
(c) represent consumers’ interests to Government and enterprises supplying or distributing goods or providing services; and
(d) collect, process and disseminate objective information for the benefit of consumers.

Mindful of the paucity of available resources in Guyana, the Government has decided that both the Competition and Fair Trading Act and the Consumer Protection Act will be administered by a single entity which will be called the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission.

The four Commissioners have been appointed and the government is moving steadily towards having the Commission established, staffed and functioning.  A building has been located and is being renovated and equipped.  Steps have also been taken to recruit the seven staff members who are needed for the Commission and already a number of competition issues have been brought to the attention of the Commissioners.

One constraint that the Commission faces is the lack of a suitable pool of human resources from which to recruit staff.   Another constraint which the Commission will encounter, and which will have to be overcome, is the lack of awareness of competition issues in Guyana.  This lack exists not only among the general populace but also among the legal profession and the judiciary who will have to adjudicate on competition issues.  Much effort will therefore have to be expended on developing public awareness and on training of the judiciary.

In overcoming these constraints, the Commission will seek to draw upon the experiences of Competition Commissions and their equivalents in the wider Caribbean and will rely, to a great extent, upon the advice of the Caricom Competition Commission.  It is therefore a pleasure to welcome our distinguished counterparts from the various Caribbean territories to this workshop.  I thank you for taking the time out from your busy schedules to attend this workshop and I am sure that we will each take away valuable experiences from this gathering.

Thank you.

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