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ECONOMYWATCH: We want healthy competition in all sectors of the economy, Trade Minister

Jun 11, 2014, 11:29 AM | Article By: Osman Kargbo

Trade Minister Abdou Kolley has reiterated government’s resolve at ensuring healthy competition in all sectors of the Gambian economy.

Hon Kolley reechoed this stance by the government at a validation workshop of the Tourism Market Study 2014 held yesterday at the SunSwing Hotel in Kololi, organised by the Gambia Competition Commission (GCC).

The Trade minister said his ministry, and by extension the government, is aware that competition is “the life force of a modern economy”,  hence everything will be done to ensure fair and decent competition prevails in The Gambia’s economy and market.

“This is why in 2007, MOTIE spearheaded the passage of the Competition Act 2007 which is aimed at securing vibrant competition in all areas of the economy, in the interest of the consumers, and promoting increased productivity, innovation and sustained economic growth and development of the country,” he said. 

“The GCC Act 2007 created the GCC charged with ensuring healthy competition in all sectors of the economy. We want healthy competition in all sectors of the economy.”

According to the GCC, the study was prompted by a letter from the Ministry of Tourism and Culture in March 2012, pointing to “suspected anti-competitive behavior” in the industry, namely the existence of exclusivity contracts between some players, which was “impacting negatively” on the sector.

In spite of the fact that the Commission had advised the Ministry to look into the exclusivity contracts between the said culprits, and have them expunged where found, “the practice was reported to be continued”. 

The Commission, therefore, undertook the study, in collaboration with the GTB, to confirm whether this was the case or not, and if so, to use the power vested in it to eradicate the practice.

The study was also necessitated by the want of a better and deeper understanding of  the tourism industry by the Commission, with a view to determining how its competitiveness could enhance the realization of the country’s Vision 2020 goal of making  the country “a tourist paradise and a major tourist destination  through product innovation, quality improvement, improvement of investment returns  and diversification of The Gambia’s tourism product”, and how far along the road the country has come in realizing this goal.

Minister Kolley applauded the initiative, saying: “At the outset, I compliment the GCCPC [Gambia Competition and Consumer Protection Commission] and the Gambia Tourism Board for organizing this forum.

“This is commendable initiative towards increasing awareness about competition law amongst the tourism fraternity.  Such an event will contribute substantially to the spread of Competition Culture and improving levels of compliance of the Competition Act which in the end would be beneficial both for the economy as well as for individual businesses themselves.”

However, he said, healthy competition does not emerge on its own. “We need independent agencies like the GCC to ensure that the playing field is level, that barriers to entry are low and the rules of the game are reasonable, etc,” he noted, adding that merely having a competition law by itself could not produce or ensure competition in the market unless it was facilitated by appropriative government policies. 

On the other hand, government policies without a law to enforce such policies and prevent competition malpractices would also be incomplete, he added: “This is why section 15(k) of the Act which calls for market studies is very apt in that it allows us to look at policies and enforcement at the same time.”

A market study, Hon Kolley stated, is one of the ways the GCCPC promotes competition in the economy, as it is carried out to assess competition in a particular area to come out with recommended ways of improving it to the benefit of the economy and consumers in general.

He also gave some caution, saying: “However, I must stress that implementing the recommendations of a market study does not mean that the sector has been given a ‘clean bill of health’. Recommendations aim to encourage and facilitate competition but they do not guarantee it.”

GCCPC conducted the study in collaboration with other stakeholders in the tourism industry including GTBoard.

The permanent secretary at the Tourism Ministry, Momodou Joof, and GTBoard Director Benjamin Roberts, also spoke in the same vein.