Minister of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce, Dwight Sutherland. (FP)

Competition Authorities play and will continue to play a vital role in safeguarding innovation and staving off the emergence of anti-competitive behaviour.

Minister of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce, Dwight Sutherland, expressed this view last Friday, as he addressed the start of the Fair Trading Commission’s (FTC) 15th Annual Lecture, held at the Hilton Barbados, Needham’s Point, St. Michael.

The lecture, which focused on the theme Competition Authorities: Keeping Pace with Technology, Commerce and Consumers, was a collaborative effort by the FTC and the Caribbean Competition Commission (CCC).

Minister Sutherland contended that by embracing this pivotal dual role, regulators could subdue potentially undesirable practices, which can adversely affect business and consumers in the dynamic digital economy.

He said: “The emergent digital economy is unlike any other industrial revolution witnessed thus far in terms of its magnitude, scope and pace.  These ineffable distinctions have led to the disruption of both traditional and emerging business models, market structures and value chains.

“So, what does this teach us?  Change is unavoidable, but is certain though its details are often unpredictable.  In conquering the negative effects of the new “digital economy”, it is important to acknowledge these disruptions and tactically determine how we can exploit them to suit our needs.”

For small developing countries like Barbados, the Minister noted that to play a greater role in, and benefit from, evolving business models and digital markets, governments, through institutions such as the CCC and the FTC must create a balance between providing flexible regulatory frameworks that accommodate the innovative players in commerce while simultaneously upholding public interests related to privacy, safety and security.

He argued: “Furthermore, these regulatory frameworks must also enable citizens and in particular, those pioneers in the micro small and medium (MSM) sector the ability to access and leverage ‘digital economy’. This responsibility also extends to developed countries and their regulatory bodies who often set the tone for these policies and developments at the national level.”

The minister also pointed out that the lecture topic was important in a period perpetuated by the unprecedented disruption of traditional norms, triggered by the technological revolution, and coined by the World Economic Forum as the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”.

“The era in which we find ourselves, is one shaped by convenience, efficiency and real-time accessibility – connecting people, goods and services at the touch of a fingertip. This age is being transformed and driven by digitization, and, in recent years, has seen the explosion of new technologies and smart devices; the rapid consumption of these technologies and devices; new business models based upon the formation of collaborative digital platforms; manipulation of those digital platform users and their data; purported election meddling; propaganda and disinformation campaigns and security breaches, to name a few,” he concluded.

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