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The role of Competition Policy: In the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals

BY: Appiah Kusi Adomako
Cash transfers to the vulnerable ensures access to basic needs

The UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were adopted in 2000, have now been replaced by fairly ambitious 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to be achieved by 2030.

There has been progress made by developing countries towards the achievement of the MDGs, especially against poverty, hunger and disease.

In addition, they have remained a focus of global policy debates, becoming incorporated into the work of both state and non-state actors.

However, there are also significant challenges in attainment of the goals, as the progress is highly variable across goals, countries and regions.

Some of the MDGs have not been achieved, including promises of official development assistance by rich countries, which have not been kept, argues Jeffrey Sachs. Maternal health and sanitation objectives were also mostly not realised.

As an advocate of competition reforms across the developing world, CUTS has maintained that competition reforms can help countries meet some of their key developmental objectives.

CUTS believes that a discussion on the linkage between Competition Policy and Sustainable Development is opportune now, and will contribute to the discussion on implementation of the Sustainable Development Agenda.

On the empirical side, CUTS has also demonstrated through the CREW Project and COMPAD Project how competition reforms lead to producer and consumer welfare.

The objective of a functional competition regime is to promote competition, and contribute towards increased efficiency and curb anti-competitive practices in the market.

It aims to ensure wider consumer choice in markets for goods and services, through innovation and efficient resource use by players in the market to promote economic welfare.

Several studies have corroborated this hypothesis, and the understanding motivated a large number of countries from Africa and Asia to embrace competition law/policy in the last decade or so.

Strong competition policy is not just a luxury to be enjoyed by rich countries, but a real necessity for those striving to create democratic market economies, writes Joseph Stiglitz.

Competition Policy and the SDG

The first SDG is to end poverty in all its forms everywhere followed by the second, end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and the third, promote sustainable agriculture, ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. The first three of the SDG are interrelated. If poverty is addressed, it means the poor and vulnerable will have the means to cater for their primary needs.

Once the poor and vulnerable get access to a thriving economic activity either through working or government direct cash transfer, there will be money to take care of food and other nutritional needs. Once there is a good nutrition, good health a by-product, malnutrition and starvation will be out of the question.

Achieving these threefold linkages require financial resources. Whether the funds come through government direct cash transfer or payroll income, the bottom line is that there must be some form of economic activity where the government or the state must generate some taxes to pay for these.

Fair and competitive market creates opportunities unlike an economy which is characterised only by monopoly and/or restrictive policies.

In a fair and competitive market, firms and business work hard to win the heart of consumers through product innovation and price reduction. Technology results in innovation and innovation results in efficient ways and means of doing things.

As a result of disruptive technology –the mobile phone, lots of people who ordinarily would not have been to even hold a fixed line to make and receive calls, can now make and receive calls with mobile phone. 

Fair and competitive market ensures that entry barriers are removed to allow for new players in the market place. Prices of cement in Ghana have fairly become stable with the removal of entry barriers.

It is now cheaper today to own and operate a mobile phone than it was a decade ago. If developing countries would restructure public utilities to allow for more competition, the entry of new players into the generation and distribution in the public utilities would result in increased efficiency and will bring prices down.

In this regard, the poor and the marginalised, who hitherto could not enjoy it, can now afford it. This will also ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all (goal seven).

Competition results in efficiency in market which in turn increases both consumer and producer surpluses. In other words, there will be increased welfare again to all the players in the market.

Fair and competitive market results in firms finding the best strategy for production in order to get the edge over the other competitor. Across the world economies that are doing well are largely the competitive ones.

Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all, and build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation, and foster innovation (SDG 8, 9)

Fair and competitive market is the way forward for the future. Certainly, Ghana, as a country, cannot remain passive in the scheme of things.

The long-awaited functional competition policy must be passed by Cabinet. Our failure to do this would means that we cannot remain competitive in the global market.

The writer is the Country Coordinator for CUTS Ghana. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Website: http://www.cuts-international.org/ARC/accra