On 2 December, the Competition Council (CC) in cooperation with the State Chancellery organised a conference “Pro-competitive Public Administration: Contribution to Economic Development” to raise awareness of the competition assessment to decision-makers of the state bodies and local municipalities.
In the opening speech Ms Dana Reizniece-Ozola, the minister of economics of Latvia highlighted the importance of the fair and equal competition, which is influenced by state bodies. Furthermore, internationally recognized expert in the competition law prof. William E. Kovacic explained a role of state and local municipalities in ensuring level playing field for businesses, while Mr Šarūnas Keserauskas, the chairman of the Lithuanian Competition Council, introduced to competition assessment in Lithuania.
Meanwhile, Ms Skaidrīte Ābrama, the chairperson of the CC, presented two initiatives to prevent regulatory gaps and competition distortions by public persons. Such initiatives provide for procedures to prevent unjustified involvement into the business, as well as to discourage from application of discriminatory conditions or special privileges.
In the context of the newly developed Competition Assessment toolkit and guidelines for decision makers from public bodies, the CC presented for a discussion competition assessment examples from opinions that the authority has recently provided on draft normative acts of various fields.
During the discussion, state and municipal decision-makers, as well as representatives of associations debated on how to balance competition concerns with other tasks of public administration. One of the main topics during the discussion were the amendments to State Administration Structure Law. These amendments provide for the obligation of public persons to ask for the opinion of the CC and to carry out economical assessment in cases when as state owned enterprise is established or when a public bodies acquires shares of an existing enterprise.
This conference was a part of broader set of activities that the CC has carried out to promote competition assessment.
During the conference, Ms Ābrama stressed that the CC increasingly faces with competition distortions in many forms by public persons. “Public persons should be considered as correct and neutral referee, which supervises the large playfield, called the market. Unfortunately, public persons in Latvia with their decisions often breach the functions of this role of referee, while granting special privileges to particular undertaking and discriminating others. So far, in Latvia there have been discussions on this topic, yet still there is lot to do to prevent public persons from unjustified involving into business and creating discriminatory conditions,” said Ms Ābrama.