JIS News

Commissioner of the United States Federal Trade Commission, William Kovacic, has said that competition policies could enhance service quality in the professional and other regulated sectors.
“Competition policies can help to increase the quality of service that is offered and leads to innovation within the sector,” said Mr. Kovacic, as he addressed the 7th annual Shirley Playfair Lecture held on September 6 at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston.
The Commissioner, who spoke on the topic: ‘Should regulators fear competition?’, noted that the relationship between competition and regulation was a subject of concern not only in Jamaica but globally.
Citing international examples, the Commissioner noted, “the European Union recently outlined in its Lisbon Agenda, that there would be a liberalization of the professions and a greater introduction of competition into traditionally regulated fields such as law and medicine”.
Additionally, he pointed out that competition policies were also at the centre of efforts to reconfigure the healthcare system in the Netherlands. He also said that “efforts are being undertaken by the Mexican Competition Authority to inject a greater measure of competition into the provision of legal services”, he informed.
Mr. Kovacic said that when competitive agencies recommend that competition policies be introduced into the professional or other sectors, the question that often asked was “whether or not the agency is gambling with sound economic policies .or is there a measure of skill and confidence with which we can approach the issue.”
This should not be the case for Jamaica, he noted, adding that there was an enormous body of international experience from which lessons on designing competitive policy directions may be drawn.Additionally, Mr. Kovacic explained that there were some institutional implications for competition agencies, which advocate for shared jurisdictions. These agencies, he said, have to be able to articulate the benefits that competition would bring to the respective sectors.
“Agencies should ensure that they conduct research on how regulation operates and what its effects are. Agencies have to do that. They have to become proficient in the field in question so that they can gain the confidence of consumers and the policy makers,” he stated, adding that “such an effort takes time.”
“Competition policy is a work in progress; the moment that you think you have got it all right is the moment that you are headed for a fall. Asking questions and addressing them over time is very important,” he pointed out.
Mr. Kovacic maintained that by developing good institutional arrangements and examining how other competition agencies operated, as well as forming connections with other competition authorities throughout the world, positive results could be achieved.
The 2006 lecture focused on improving the knowledge base of businesses both large and small, professionals, producers of goods and services, students and the judiciary on the relationship between the two aspects of trading – competition and regulation.