A leading UN agency has recommended that Pakistan grant financial autonomy to the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP).
The recommendation from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) came amid the anti-trust watchdog’s proposal to collect upfront half of all penalties from violators of the law to discourage individuals and entities from seeking court injunctions.
Pakistan has completed Peer Review at the 13th Annual Session of the Intergovernmental Group of Experts (IGE) on Competition Law and Policy, at Geneva, Switzerland, organised by the UNCTAD.
The UN agency has also asked Islamabad to align its policies with competition laws and recommended that Islamabad should make sure that all its regulatory agencies pay 3% of their revenues to CCP funds.
The Competition Act of 2010 binds these payments but all regulatory agencies have so far denied this right to the CCP, making the anti-trust watchdog financially dependent on the government.
Those resources would permit the Commission to focus on implementing advocacy policy more effectively by expanding its outreach and establishing its regional offices, according to the UNCTAD report.
It has also recommended harmonising government policies with the competition law of 2010 and has expressed that competition assessment at the policy design stage is desirable and recommended to achieve regulatory objectives with less harm to competition.
The UN agency has stressed the need to identify existing policies that are likely to adversely impact competition, prioritise policies which should be reviewed first and ensure that reviews are undertaken by sector-specific regulators in conjunction with the CCP.
A Pakistani delegation, led by CCP chairperson Rahat Kaunain Hassan had visited Geneva to complete the Peer Review. The purpose of the Peer Review was to assess the legal framework and enforcement experience in Pakistan and to draw lessons from past experiences with a view to improving competition law enforcement in the country.
Discussing the challenges faced by the CCP, the report said that the CCP struggles against difficulties that often challenge competition agencies in economies with a long tradition of strong government controls, including a deficient public understanding of the competition policy, slow judicial review, and incomplete support from other parts of the government, mainly translated into the lack of adequate financial autonomy.
After the leniency decision, the National Accountability Bureau and Transparency International have expressed interest in the case and any such intervention or lack of clarity on this aspect may deter future leniency applications, according to the report.
The report also recommended constitution of special benches that may enable expeditious disposal of cases, serving public and consumer interests.
In an effort to clear the backlog of pending cases where the CCP has imposed over Rs25 billion in fines and discouraging the tendency of seeking stay orders from courts, the CCP has sought 50% upfront payments by the violators before they could seek stay orders.
CCP chairperson Miss Hasan said that the penalties should be deposited in a special account until the courts give their final verdicts.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 21st, 2013.