Minister of International Business, Industry, Commerce and Small Business Development Donville Inniss has placed a muzzle on the Fair Trading Commission (FTC), ordering it not to publicly comment on matters on which it had not yet ruled.
“As an independent and professional entity, the FTC ought not to and will not engage in discussions outside of their internal system on matters that are not fully and properly before them or on matters to which they are engaged on, until at such time that their decisions are made,” Inniss said without mentioning any specific case.
The latest acquisition to occupy the attention of the FTC is the sale of the Barbados National Oil Terminal (BNTCL).
Just last week Chief Executive Officer Sandra Sealy told Barbados TODAY the regulatory body had launched initial investigations into the sale of the island’s sole oil terminal.
“We are doing the initial investigation on the matter, but we realize that negotiations are still ongoing at this stage,” Sealy said at the time.
Inniss said institutions, companies and individuals were encouraged to raise their concerns with the agency which oversees fair business practices here and would receive a response.
However, he emphasized that the FTC would not be involved in any public discussions on matters that were before it.
“Do not expect the FTC under my watch to become a soap opera or to be engaged as a circus where you go see the clowns at play. It, like the Office of Public Counsel and the Department of Commerce, has serious work to do and to do so without fear or favour. Likewise those who may not be pleased with proposed mergers or acquisitions will not attempt to use any of the departments in my ministry to frustrate or disrupt such. But you can expect such bodies to do what the law allows them to do,” Inniss said in an address at the opening ceremony of the one-day sensitization workshop on Competition Law and Policy in CARIFORUM at the Savannah Hotel this morning.
Away from the FTC, the minister chided unnamed people who he said behaved inappropriately whenever competition “rears its head”.
“Then we get all emotional over who are the real shareholders, who is exerting undue influence on which Government department or which politician and a whole set of issues surface, many of which have no real bearing on the facts, but certainly help to fuel the gossip machine. We simply have to do better and be more professional on these public issues,” Inniss stressed.
The outspoken minister said constant calls for Government to ban the importation of items or to impose very high levels of taxation “have never and will never bring about the level of competition or innovation” needed to drive the economy.
Describing the current competitive environment as the “new normal”, Inniss called on the region to do all it could to foster competition and innovation in the marketplace.
“That means advocating for regulatory frameworks that allow competition and innovation to thrive,” he said.
He promised that Barbados would continue to do what it could to remain ahead of the curve with respect to competition policy.