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Telecom Competition Code

Mr Lam Chuan Leong, Chairman Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore Opening Address - IDA Regulatory Workshop, SICEC

Mr Lam Chuan Leong, Chairman
Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore
Opening Address - IDA Regulatory Workshop, SICEC
Singapore, 7 October 2003

Good morning ladies and gentlemen.

1. First of all, I am very glad to be here with you this morning, and to see so many of you present. It makes my job much easier because your presence here means that you all appreciate the importance of the subject of the Competition Code.

2. I have very often been asked by friends and various people I meet whether IDA is actually a regulator or a promoter - this question has even been posed to me by my fellow board members. This question surprises me because in my mind, IDA is always a promoter. However, many people think that being a promoter and a regulator are different roles, and they wonder how we manage the conflict of interest.

3. My view is that I have yet to see an industry where you have poor companies providing good service to consumers. On the other hand, you also cannot have service providers over charging the consumers - at least it cannot be done over a sustained period of time because very soon, nobody will subscribe to the services.

4. So I think that defined in the broad sense, IDA's role is ultimately to provide a very strong and healthy industry, which includes consumer welfare. So in that sense, IDA's aim is to help the total system - industry, consumers, companies, including telcos and the other players, to flourish. Therefore, it is not a question of regulation versus promotion. Rather, it is one of creating a whole healthy industry. As such, although this morning we are going to discuss largely regulation issues and the Competition Code, I hope you will remember that this regulation takes place within the overall objective of ensuring that the industry, as well as the consumers, benefit.

5. As industry practitioners, you will know how important the Code is. If I were to offer an analogy, I would suggest that the industry is akin to a sort of complex machinery, perhaps a motorcar for example. I would then liken the Competition Code to a lubricant. I think most of us nowadays do not think about the lubricant in our cars, unlike in the old days when one would check the level of oil with a dip-stick. The lubricant performs a very essential task, yet we neglect its existence until something goes wrong with the car. As with car lubricants, I do not think anybody misses the Code if things go smoothly. However, if the Code is not present or if it falters, then some people may be without cable TV, some people may be without phones, some people may have no consumer choice. And that is when the floodlight shines on the regulator.

6. I would like to congratulate the IDA staff because they have achieved a 'first'. They were the first, I was told, to bring a competition code into Singapore. I think that was a daring attempt. I will not say the Code was perfect, but it was a first, and it has served the industry very well for the first three years. Today, like the oil in your car, the technology is constantly improving, so we are launching a new version of the lubricant. After the experience from the past three years, like wear and tear in the machinery, we now know whether more oil is needed for some parts and less oil for other parts. It does not mean that the more oil you pour in, the better the machinery gets, or the better the regulation. Sometimes, you put too much oil, and it just clogs the whole machinery. Conversely, it is not true that if you have insufficient oil, you are better off, as the whole engine may heat up and breakdown. So we have to constantly change and modify the Code.

7. Today, we are coming up with a new formulation. Hopefully it will meet the needs of the next three years. The telecommunications industry is one that grows and changes very rapidly. New parts are added to the machinery all the time, and we hope to be forward looking and make sure that the Code can meet the needs of the next three years.

8. Today's launch of the Code consultation is also another 'first', as it is the first time we have publicly opened the discussion forum on such a scale. Today is like the new product launch of our lubricant. This Code has yet to be firmed up as it is opened today for public consultation. We hope you will pay careful attention to what is in the Code. You probably have to live with it for many years to come. So please go back, review it carefully and give us your feedback. It would not be honest for me to promise you that each and every person's feedback will be accepted, but all feedback will be certainly be acted upon. The Code is a uniform instrument, like a lubricant or oil, and it must serve all parts of the machinery. It cannot be optimized if it serves only a specific player and specific industry segment. Nevertheless we will try to evolve towards a Code that will meet the best possible functioning of the system as a whole.

9. Let me stop at this juncture and not preempt what the expert speakers will present. Before I do, I would like to congratulate the IDA staff who have gone out of their way to organise this function. I would also like to thank the expert speakers, who have kindly come from as far away as Washington DC, which is approximately half way around the world. Thank you again for coming this morning to join us.