Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. A very good morning to all. Thank you very much for inviting me to be part of this important conference. I would also like to commend the Competition Commission of Singapore and the Singapore Academy of Law for jointly organising this conference.
Driving Economic Growth through Competition
2. Competition is a defining characteristic of a free market economy. It brings about differentiation and innovation. It offers greater variety of products and services to consumers at competitive prices. Competition also enables economies to allocate their resources more efficiently. Where there is free competition, economies tend to grow faster and become more resilient.
3. Singapore’s approach to promoting economic growth therefore is greatly contingent upon building the right market conditions to encourage free competition. One important outcome of this policy is that our businesses, large and small, are internationally competitive.
4. The competitiveness of Singapore’s economy has been widely recognised in global ranking reports. In the 2013-2014 World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report, Singapore was ranked 2nd behind Switzerland, for the third consecutive year.
5. In this report, Singapore fared relatively well in all the dimensions of the economic competitiveness. However, we also noted that in some areas, such as intensity of local competition (rank 19th) and private sector business sophistication (rank 17th), there was room for improvement. These are areas where good competition policy can stimulate changes for the better, in the following ways.
6. Firstly, competition policy and law facilitates the development of a vibrant marketplace by removing barriers to market entry. This results in contestable markets where players need to stay competitive and efficient to maintain market share and grow.
7. Secondly, competition fosters an environment that facilitates disruptive innovation by new firms which challenge incumbents and drive innovation throughout the industry. Competition policy enables better market outcomes for the economy by ensuring that government agencies give due consideration to the competitive impact of policies that they implement. For example, the right government policies can facilitate, or remove hindrances to, the introduction of new business models or maverick players that create a positive disruptive effect for both the industry and consumers.
Competition Policy and Law Developments in Singapore
8. Singapore has benefited from the introduction of the Competition Act since 2005. As the Administrator of the Act, the Competition Commission of Singapore (CCS)’s scope of work has covered both domestic and international markets, spanning a range of industries and commercial entities. Let me illustrate with a few examples.
9. The first example is that of regulating a local Bus Cartel case. The study found that prices of express bus tickets between destinations in Singapore and Malaysia fell following CCS’s actions to break up an industry cartel in 2009, benefiting consumers on both sides of the causeway.
10. Next, more recently, CCS investigated and took action against another international cartel involving price fixing by overseas ball bearing manufacturers, which had resulted in Singapore businesses paying higher prices.
11. The third example is that involving a ticketing service company back in 2010. The dominant industry player then was found to have abused its dominant position to limit competition. Following CCS’ intervention which created a level playing field, new players have entered the ticketing industry. The greater competition benefited both event promoters and ticket buyers with better pricing.
12. As a free market champion, CCS intervened to improve the functioning of a free market. It does so however, with a pro-enterprise mindset.
13. For instance, to minimise regulatory burden and compliance costs for businesses, CCS recently did away with the need for SME mergers below a certain threshold to notify CCS. CCS also avails itself for confidential advice in situations where parties are not ready for public announcement.
Importance of Competition Policy and Law in the Regional Landscape
14. Beyond Singapore, we are also actively contributing to the creation and adoption of competition policy which will level the playing field for all businesses in the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).
15. Today, apart from Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam have put in place competition regimes, with the remaining ASEAN Member States in the process of drafting or tabling their draft competition laws. Singapore welcomes this positive development by contributing our experiences and participating in the ASEAN Experts Group on Competition (“AEGC”).
16. Beyond ASEAN, Singapore also chairs the Competition Chapter at the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) with the aim of creating high level consensus amongst ASEAN member states and the dialogue partners the adoption of a common standard towards regional competition policy.
17. Ladies and gentlemen, Singapore will do its best to promote the awareness and application of competition policy regionally and internationally. It thus gives me great pleasure to invite you to the Annual Conference of the International Competition Network, or ICN, that will be held in Singapore in April 2016. We are expecting the participation of more than 120 antitrust authorities worldwide at this event. We will be very happy if you could come and join us. CCS will be releasing more information on this event in due course.
18. On this note, may I wish everyone a productive conference ahead. Thank you.