Muscat: A new government organisation set up to tackle monopolies could benefit consumers and companies alike. In an exclusive interview with Times of Oman, the man heading up the new initiative spoke about how he hopes it will lower prices and improve quality for buyers at the same time as protecting businesses.
The new Competition Protection and Monopoly Preventions Centre wants to increase competition among the manufacturers, suppliers and vendors of goods for Omani markets, which would decrease costs and increase the quality of products sold. The food, medicine and transport sectors will be among the first to be assessed by the centre.
CEO of the centre, Dr Dhafir Al Shanfari, said, “We will focus on vital sectors that are the biggest segments of society in terms of their expenditure per month. A big focus is health, medicines, transportation and food. These are sectors which will be reviewed in terms of competitiveness and behaviours that breach the law. This will lead to a freer and more ethical market.” Explaining the changes this market would bring, he added, “It is common sense that an increase in competition will lower prices and increase the quality of services. This is a basic rule but in some sectors that happens more than others.”
The Centre was established to combat “dominance”, which is defined by law as “acquiring a rate exceeding 35 per cent of the volume of a particular market” in an attempt to control the market.
The CEO also talked about his vision for the centre, including a future where harmful practices, such as dominance or the creation of a monopoly, would be deterred.
He added, “My dream is for this centre to be a leading one in the region, and for it to be renowned for fair treatment that would act as a deterrent for any businessman who employs practices that harm other companies.”
“A monopoly happens when one company dominates a geographic market,” he explained, and added that the centre will monitor this in order to protect competitiveness. “The regulation structure and list regarding this will come out in the next few weeks, after it has been approved by Directors and Ministers.”
According to the centre’s website, its work includes all commercial and economic activities, products, trade and services which are carried out in or have implications within the Sultanate. The only activities that are excluded from the law are “public utilities owned and operated by the State in full,” as well as “research and development activities by public or private entities.”
Al Shanfari added, “Public utilities owned and operated by the state will also be clearly defined in the regulatory list. Expectations are high for the centre, since it is related to improving the business environment and protecting businessmen. Our number one focus is businesses, not the consumer, since the PACP already exists.
“Our goal is to create a competitive business environment, which will benefit the consumer and the national economy,” he added. “We also want to protect [local] businesses from foreign companies which might be competing in methods which breach the law.”
The Royal Decree regarding the centre states, “Agreements between suppliers or competitors in determining pricing, discounts, sale or purchase terms and conditions or provisions of the services,” are forbidden, as is the “prevention, hampering, suspending any practice for any person to perform his economic or commercial activity within the market.”
Regarding how the centre would achieve its goals, Al Shanfari said, “My ambition is to implement the law in a professional and transparent manner. We should follow leading examples of this from around the world but we should accelerate the training of an Omani team which is specialised in this specific field in the legal and economic sense.”
“Another task is to build a network of information and relations which can allow us to begin work on cases urgently, and to have implementation be quick, practical, and professional,” he added, Expats and nationals in the country were looking forward to seeing how this would impact their daily purchases, with Rashid Al Kiyumi, an Omani national, saying, “Sometimes, only one seller in the market is providing a certain type of goods, and because of this he knows he can ask whatever price he likes. If there are more people selling such goods, then there will be competition and it will be more affordable.”
Ahmed Khalil, an Egyptian expat, added, “We are fortunate that we are able to afford many of the things, but there are others who cannot. This will be beneficial for them, so it is good to see efforts being taken to ensure quality, affordable things are there for everyone.”