Change agent: Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel says overhaul of the Competition Act is long overdue. A new bill proposes mechanisms to tackle high levels of concentration. Picture: FILE PICTURE
Change agent: Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel says overhaul of the Competition Act is long overdue. A new bill proposes mechanisms to tackle high levels of concentration. Picture: FILE PICTURE

The outcomes of the market inquiries into private healthcare, grocery retail and the cost of communication will be ready in 2018, says Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel.

Reports flowing from the three inquiries would be tabled in Parliament.

Market inquiry hearings will be held on the public passenger transport sector, Patel said in Parliament while delivering his department’s budget vote speech on Thursday.

The Competition Commission has been conducting the market inquiries to determine if collusion and concentration were stifling competition.

"I expect to receive and table in Parliament this year the outcome of three ... significant market inquiries into private healthcare, grocery retail [which includes shopping malls and spaza shops] and communication data costs.

"Market inquiry hearings will be held on public passenger transport and cost of communication data," the minister said.

In December, the department gazetted a draft Competition Amendment Bill for comment.

The bill proposes mechanisms to address high levels of concentration, which excludes small business and black South Africans from the mainstream economy, said Patel.

It also gives competition authorities powers to impose remedies to address problems in the structure of the economy and to promote inclusion.

The bill also deals with practices such as price discrimination, said Patel.

Major reform

"This is a major reform of our 20-year-old Competition Act. We received more than 60 submissions on the proposed changes…. We have also engaged Nedlac [National Economic Development and Labour Council] parties — business and labour — over the past few months. We will, during this year, finalise a revised bill through Cabinet for submission to Parliament for consideration."

Patel said the department’s budget of about R1.1bn would be distributed as follows: "Just over R280m for the Competition Commission to do its work to open up the economy for all; R240m raised from the construction industry, for the new Tirisano Fund, to finance transformation, including support for black artisans and engineers, small builders ...

"[A total of] R229m for the small enterprise finance agency to make loans available to small and micro enterprises.

"[A total of] R140m to unblock investment; R102m for the International Trade Administration Commission; R35m for the Competition Tribunal; R30m for a Steel Competitiveness Fund to rejuvenate the steel industry; and R15m ... to monitor the spending and construction in the state’s infrastructure plan."

Patel also voiced optimism about the country’s economic prospects in light of the so-called new dawn ushered in by Cyril Ramaphosa’s rise.

Michael Cardo, DA MP and spokesman on economic development, said with the country’s growth forecast at just 1.5% for 2018, more than 9-million South Africans unemployed and declining business confidence levels, "this new dawn looks set to be a false dawn".

"Zuma’s legacy — state plunder, mismanagement of public finances and economic decline — still casts a gloomy shadow over the country.

"And it will continue to do so until the sun sets on an ANC government, and we see the dawning of total change under the DA," said Cardo.

phakathib@businesslive.co.za

Please sign in or register to comment.