La Competencia, un preludio del bienestar social


  • Amadeu Petitbò i Juan


The President of the Spanish Competitiorn Tribunal explain that citizens increasingly demand that markets work freely. Since entering the European Union Spanish mentality has changed towards liberalisation and against interventionism. Monopolies and restrictions benefit a few at the expense of all. The US has if long tradition of defending competitive markets. In Spain price intervention was considered normal or convenient. Protected from competition, Spain did not develop a culture in favour of markets and competition. The fall in the price of electricity, greater choice in airlines and telecommunications, and the historical minimum of inflation have established ideas which were already in place much earlier in other countries. But it is not easy to introduce competition in a culture based on privilege, public subsidies and a chastity belt of protection against competition. The Tribunal has concentrated its activities in the service sector which has the greatest number of restrictive practices.
Markets are not perfect with many oligopolies. Deregulation coincides with liberalisation strategies. Especialy important is deregulating what has been excessively regulated, limiting competition. The notion of public service does not mean services must be monopolies nor publicly owned. Privatisation is increasing, pushed by budget deficits and economic sense. However before privatisation, competition must be introduced. Globalisation is forcing the Administration to improve business conditions. Good intentions are no longer enough.
Competition is efficient. Moving away from monopoly conditions reduces prices and increases output. Liberalisation stimulates investment and slows inflation, benefitting growth, welfare and employment. Consumers have a greater choice in Spain, with the cost of airtravel fulling 30%, and also long distance telephone calls with a greater array of services provided. It is doubtful that the Spanish telephone company would have behaved the same without the new competition. Book prices have also fallen and pharmaceuticals had a 40% fall in prices from competition. The battle for competiton is not easy. It is not just about big business, but daily living. Restrictions are still widespread: entry barriers, price and output restrictions, selling hours, local content of products. Firms that profit cause a serious loss to other firms and consumers. The Tribunal is also going to deal with public subsidies and the effect on competition of environmental regulation. Greater growth and welfare are worth the effort.