The government is crafting antitrust legislation to prevent the formation of monopolies and protect small businesses, Minister of Financial Services, Trade and Industry and Immigration Elsworth Johnson said yesterday during his 2020/2021 budget debate contribution.
Johnson said without antitrust legislation, small businesses are without protection from large companies that wish to squeeze them out of a market.
“Antitrust legislation will increase competition in the domestic marketplace, ensuring that the bigger players do not use their dominance to push out smaller players to solidify their positions and in so doing create monopolies,” Johnson said.
“This is critical for The Bahamas, where small businesses are the backbone of our economy and yet still find themselves without protection in the law.”
Johnson said an existing draft competition bill will be built upon in order to design a competition agency much like the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA), which regulates entities involved with the supply of power and communications and possibly one day water.
Johnson added that existing antitrust models in Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries are being looked at in order to fashion legislation locally.
He said the government is also working on pieces of legislation “to create an environment to facilitate trade”.
Johnson said those bills being worked on include a foreign investment bill that will codify the national investment policy in order to add predictability and transparency to the process; tariff rate quota regulations; anti-dumping regulations; animal health, food safety and plant protection regulations; a protection of new plant varieties bill; and the public procurement bill.
He said the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has delayed the advancement of some of this legislation.
“One thing this pandemic has clearly illustrated is how quickly we can make radical changes to our daily lives,” said Johnson.
“The crisis has forced both businesses and individuals to change practices long held as essential and to adapt to new realities and the way that they conduct their affairs.
“The Bahamas must prepare itself to meet the challenges of trading with its international partners and this will require change.”