CUTS IN MEDIA-March 2006
Regional Conference on Fair Trade Practices
March 28, 2006, The Ethiopian Herald
Addis Ababa (ENA) - A two-day regional conference on capacity building on competition policy in selected countries of East and Southern Africa kicks off here yesterday.
Opening the conference, commissioner for the Ethiopian Trade Practice Investigation, Harqa Haroye said unfair trade practices are among the factors contributing to the backwardness of the country.
Harqa said the existence of a fair trade practice is a must for the country to practice free market system thus need to be practiced at all levels.
He said being aware of he impacts of the unfair trade practices on the free market system, the Ethiopian government has enacted trade practices law in 2003 in addition to the establishment of a trade practice investigation commission in the country.
Harqa said this acts of government shows the concern it gave to the development of free market system in the country.
President of the Ethiopian consumer rights protection association, Alemu Jotie, told ENA that the objective of the conference is to create a consultation forum aimed at discussing and investigating the level at which fair trade practices are exercised in some selected Eastern and Southern African countries.
Alemu said the conference and its final research outcomes would contribute for the implementation of fair trade practices in Ethiopia as will as cooperate with the government in enforcing fair trade competition policy in the country.
He said the result of the research would be publicized by June this year.
He said the two-day conference is organised by an Indian-based organisation Consumer Unity & Trust Society International (CUTS International) in cooperation with the Ethiopian Consumer Protection Association.
Participants drawn from 30 countries of Africa, Europe and Asia are taking part in the two-day conference.
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March 28, 2006, Business Line & Sify.com
Pricing of pay channels continues to remain the bone of contention between broadcasters and cable service providers in the implementation of the conditional access system (CAS).
At a meeting between the various stakeholders and the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry, the cable industry as well as consumer groups asked the pay channels to fix a la carte rates. They also asked the Government to fix an MRP on the rates to ensure that broadcasters do not resort to arbitrary pricing.
According to Ms Roop Sharma, President, Cable Operators' Federation of India (Cofi), "It was suggested that CAS be rolled out in other parts of the country after the metros." While the large multi-system operators (MSOs) are prepared to implement CAS almost immediately, the independent operators would require more time.
Meanwhile the broadcasters are in favour of bouquet pricing and not come out with a list of individual channel prices. Broadcasting industry sources said that while the free-to-air (FTA) broadcasters are in favour of CAS, it is the pay channels that are opposing this
CUTS International said that there is need to decentralise the regulatory enforcement system for regulating the cable TV industry due to the variation in system across cities. Further, set top boxes must be made available on rental basis and provided in a manner similar to the way LPG Cylinders are available. It also said that pricing of channels should be regulated and proper service standards at local level must be ensured.
The Government will now have to take a final decision on the implementation of CAS. The Delhi High Court had given the Government a month's time to ensure the roll out of this system.
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March 27, 2006, The Meghalaya Guardian
Along with the rest of the world, farmers from Ri Bhoi district has opposed the proposed enactment of Seed Bill in Lok Sabha by the central government after getting a clear picture of the Bill in an awareness campaign conducted by Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS) at Umsning recently.
The Society is an international organization championing for the rights of the farmers and they have been creating awareness on the ill-effects of the Seed Bill in various places.
According to CUTS representative D. Chakraborty, many farmers from the district attended the campaign where the farmers high-lighted their grievances and difficulties while “we enlighten them on the impact of the proposed Seed Bill. “Chakraborty said that the farmers told them that due to use of seeds supplied by the government, their traditional method of farming had been weaned away.
He further said that the farmers complained that the government supplied seeds that can be used just once whereas the seeds obtained through traditional method can be used twice or thrice. He added that the farmers argued that the utilization of the fertilizers leads to loss of fertility of the soil while many people complained to the farmers on the ill effect of pesticide.
On the Seed Bill, Chakraborty said that according to the provision of the bill, companies selected by the government would produce seed and from these companies only the farmers have to buy the seeds and thus such move would do away the traditional method of farming.
The draft Seeds Bill 2004 have been introduced in the Parliament.
The highlights of the proposed Seeds Act includes compulsory registration of varieties based on agronomic performance data, accreditation of ICAR Centres, State Agricultural Univrsities and Private Organizations to conduct agronomic trials, accreditation of organizations for certification, maintenance of National Register of varieties, to regulate the export and import of seeds, exemption for farmers to save, use, exchange, share, share or sell their seed without registration, accreditation of private seed testing laboratories, enhancement of penalty for major and minor infringement, inclusion of provisions to regulate GM crops and ban on terminator seed, implementation of Legislation on Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Protection.
March 21, 2006, Business Line
The Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) has appointed Mr Pradeep S. Mehta, Secretary General, Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS), as Member of the Central Advisory Committee (CAC). He would advise the Commission on the issues related to policy, quality, continuity and extent of services provided by licensees, protection of consumer interests and overall standard of performance by utilities, said a release.
In his communication, the CERC Chairman, Mr Ashok Basu, has said that the role of CAC is paramount in supporting the mission of the Commission to promote competition, efficiency and economy in bulk power markets, improve the quality of supply, promote investments and advise the Government on the removal of institutional barriers to bridge the demand-supply gap and thus foster the interests of consumers, it added.
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March 09, 2006, Vientiane Times
By Phonsavanh Vongsay
RIVALRY between businesses will be improved if Laos invokes further competition law, according to senior economic researcher on Tuesday.
The law will ensure that there is healthy competition between businesses, helping to raise the quality and quantity of production.
Acting Director General of the National Economic Research Institute (NERI), Dr. Leeber Leebouapao said at a training workshop on Business Competition Policy and Law in Laos on March 7 in Vientiane that neighbouring countries already had such laws.
Dr. Leeber said that Laos did not have any direct legislation in relation the business competition law, but it did have some regulations with regards to competition law.
He said that when there is high competition, it ensures products marketed ate of good quality and low price; consequently the benefits will go to local consumers. In addition, there will be benefits for producers with only minimal time and investment needed to make the necessary improvements.
Competition law will also help small producers grow, in addition to quality and modern production machinery. They will then be able to compete with foreign products.
Dr. Leeber said, “The competition law will help economic growth.”
Currently many consumer goods, which are produced locally by small producers, have not increased their market share, as they cannot compete with larger investors. Big investors have currently gained a monopoly in their sector, allowing them to keep prices high quality low. They also try to block other newcomers who want to invest in the same fields as them.
“This is why we are promoting business competition policy and law, in order to help ensure equality between businesses and to eliminate unfair trade practices,” Dr. Leeber added.
Vice president of the Committee for Planning and Investment, Dr. Lien Thikeo, said that business competition policy and law ate very important for Lao economic development. Currently development is based on a market economy, and to ensure it continues so there should be fair and equal business competition.
“Recently the government has issued trade competition decree to make business competition in Laos stronger. To make the decree effective, it has now been assigned to the Ministry of Commerce to be implemented in the business community.” Dr. Lien Thikeo said.
The two day training workshop was held to build
understanding of the meaning, role and importance of business competition
for socio-economic development. In particular they emphasised how
it could improve economic efficiency and the welfare of consumers.
The training was organised by NERI, supported
by CUTS-International and business enterprises. This was the third
training workshop scheduled, following two previous workshops last
March 06, 2006, Hindustan Times
A leading consumer rights awareness body has called for further simplification of tax structures and rationalizing rules and regulations, and a stronger role for the government as an enabling force to enhance competitiveness and efficiencies of the economy.
Urging the government to introduce VAT regime CUTS International said that the new system will go a long way in bringing in tax rationalization and revenue generation for the state. Given that most of the neighboring states have adopted VAT, Rajasthan cannot let its businesses in a disadvantageous position, said Pradeep S. Mehta, Secretary General, CUTS.
The forthcoming state budget should also announce constitution of State Competition and Regulatory Agency (SCORA) as an autonomous agency to promote efficiency and effectiveness of services in the state.
“Consumer abuses being rampant in services such as education, health, transport, entertainment and given that unregulated markets do not provide adequate incentives to better service providers, timely enactment of SCORA is imperative to address these concerns. “Mr. Mehta said.
CUTS International also called for setting up a Consumer Directorate under which all departments related to consumer welfare be brought in.
A Consumer Welfare Fund, announced last year should also be operationalised and a system be put in place to ensure its smooth operation in objective manner.
Commenting on the power sector reforms, CUTS International stated that aggregate technical and commercial losses of over 40% were causing adverse impact on the entire economy.
Attainment of reduction in losses would require the government to invest heavily in electricity distribution and active involvement of consumers in the reforms process. Given this scenario, the government should further invest in the feeder renovation program in rural areas so that not only the losses were reduced but rural areas get 24hr power supply. A separate fund should also be created for awareness generation and information dissemination across the state with active involvement of consumer groups. It is estimated that 5% conservation of electricity at consumer end would save as much as Rs.400 crores for the state.
The state should implement Right to Information Act at all levels in the system. Whereas Rajasthan was the first state to bring in the Act, the implementation of the provisions has somehow not been very effective despite its potential to weed out corruption.
Extensive training programs should be chalked out
and launched to sensitise government officials at all levels and
civil society groups in the state.
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