Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Legislators punch holes in Gaolathe’s Competition Bill

Although long overdue, legislators this week supported the Competition Bill presented to parliament by the Minister of Trade and Industry Baledzi Gaolathe saying it will combat anti-competitive behaviour.

Palapye MP Moisaraela Goya said the law will cushion small enterprises against bigger ones which have the propensity to abuse aspiring businesses.

“For a long time big enterprises have been abusing small enterprises, monopolising business at the detriment of the aspiring businesses. With the envisaged legislation, although overdue, I believe it is never too late to bring the current status quo a halt and in the process bring the ordinary Batswana whose majority are in the peripheral to the mainstream of the economy,” revealed Goya.

He observed that unscrupulous big enterprises especially those from outside the country take advantage of the government joint venture initiatives with the locals only to monopolise the business at their own advantage.

“Foreign investors out-compete Batswana. They monopolise prices to the disadvantage of the native investors. These are some of the factors the government should thoroughly scrutinise and I believe that is actually what the bill intends to combat,” Goya said.

Big entities he noted act as regulatory bodies and simultaneously conduct pronged businesses citing Botswana Power Corporation which produces electricity and in the vein sell the same.

However, Francistown south legislator Wynter Mmolotsi doubts the success of the envisaged law insisting the public was not carried along to enlighten them about these changes.

“Without public education I could see these noble initiatives wasting away. Batswana need to be taught about this law and changes embedded,” Mmolotsi insisted.

He cautioned the minister and the government to distance themselves from the Competition Authority board and to provide the same with sufficient budgets to run satisfactorily the errands of the institution.

Gaborone south west MP Botsalo Ntuane also echoed the sentiments expressed by Mmolotsi urging the government to rally the public behind to get used to the law.

“I doubt the public were carried along about this plausible law, which aims to extend to protect the vulnerable consumers. But as the queens language would say it takes two to a tango the government should know the public are part of this initiative therefore need to be informed about these sound changes.”

He argued big foreign companies distorts prices to the market, inflates the cost of service delivery which the consumers have to pay the price.

“Goods are over-priced, some even bearing RSA prices. It is against this background I support the bill which to my understanding would not only protect the potential investors but the vulnerable consumers as well,” he concluded.

Gaborone central MP Dumelang Saleshando supported the bill insisting however for the government to take action against corporate companies which misled the public with deceptive advertisement.

“I believe it is time the government make offence to companies which deliberately give deceptive and misleading advertisements,” Saleshando contributed.

Baledzi maintained the bill was basically to provide for the prevention of anti-competitive practices in the market.

“It aims to address problems arising from globalization of cartels, abuse of dominance and monopolization of key sectors of the economy by corporate entities following the opening up of markets as a result of economic reforms and liberalisation of international trade,” he added.

Competition law he noted has become an important element of economic policy reform in many countries arguing in recognition of the important role which competitive markets can play in promoting economic growth and alleviating of poverty, government have opted to undertake measures that are aimed at enhancing effective trade such as through the liberalisation of markets, de-regulation and privatisation among others.

“However empirical evidence has shown that in an unregulated market, businesses often resort to anti-competitive behavior that can nullify the benefits of trade liberalisation. This has made it necessary for governments to enact competition law in order to safeguard market reforms by anti-competitive practices in a de-regulated trading environment,” trade minister noted.

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