ISLAMABAD (Reporter Enews): The Competition Commission of Pakistan organized a seminar to mark the World Competition Day, which is celebrated every year on 5th December to create awareness on competition related issues and how the enforcement of a competition regime benefits consumers.

The topic of the seminar was “Economic Growth and Competitiveness” and it was attended by H.E. Greg Giokas, Canadian High Commissioner, Dr. Manzoor Ahmed, Regional Trade Advisor US Aid Trade Project, Ms Mia Ter Haar, representative of the US Embassy Islamabad, Mr. Chuk Lambert, Trade Policy Team Lead, US Aid Trade Project, senior officials of the Ministry of Finance, representatives of Oil & Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA), Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), Ministry of Industries, representatives of chambers, senior management of private sector companies and academia.

Dr. Joseph Wilson, the Chairman CCP, while addressing the seminar noted that competitiveness was essential to achieve sustainable economic growth which in turn would rid the country of poverty. “Competitiveness is a function of the enforcement of competition regime,” Dr. Wilson noted.

Citing the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index, he noted that Pakistan’s competitiveness had deteriorated over the years with the country now ranked at number 133 out of 148 countries. He added that Pakistan’s ranking was lowest in the region falling behind India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

The Canadian High Commissioner, H.E. Greg Giokas, speaking on the occasion stated that having a discussion on competitiveness was very important. He focused on how to gain a competitive advantage in international trade. The High Commissioner was of the opinion that the competitiveness of Pakistan lay in its agricultural sector and Canada was providing its expertise to Pakistan in this sector, so that the potential of this sector could be harnessed.

Mr. Giokas linked the competitiveness of a country like Pakistan to the promotion of agriculture. He noted that instead of hiding behind high tariff walls the agriculture sector needed to focus on improving its competitiveness. As a starting point there were three important ways to improving competitiveness: policy development, business development and consultations with stakeholders. He said that big gains could come from simple improvements.

Dr. Manzoor Ahmad, Regional Trade Advisor for USAID Trade Project, while addressed the issue of exemptions granted to certain businesses through SROs which, according to him, provided an unfair advantage to large businesses at the expense of SMEs. He cited the example of the auto sector where special SROs practically prohibited new entrants and gave an unfair advantage to auto producers in Pakistan. He noted that the telecom and banking sectors were success stories where opening up of the sector to competition resulted in enormous benefits to businesses and consumers.

The Chairman Dr. Wilson opened the house for discussion and the participants took keen interest in discussing various issues concerning Pakistan’s competitiveness. While responding to a question, CCP Member Dr. Shehzad Ansar appreciated the new SME policy recently introduced by the government saying that the policy would go a long way in creating more business opportunities particularly for small investors. Mueen Batlay Member CCP, observed that unless you were not competitive domestically you could not be competitive internationally.

To a question regarding the auto sector and the general perception that there is a cartelization in the industry, it was observed that policies should be formulated with the consensus of the relevant industry at a proper forum.

Ms. Mia Ter Haar from the US Embassy Islamabad noted that it was important not only to have good laws but also enforcing those laws.