Politics and the Pursuit of Telecommunications Sector Efficiency in New Zealand

Posted: 14 Jun 2010

See all articles by Bronwyn E. Howell

Bronwyn E. Howell

Victoria University of Wellington - School of Management

Date Written: June 2010

Abstract

Economic analysis takes as its defining performance benchmark the pursuit of increases in efficiency. Competition law and industry-specific regulation provide two competing means of intervention whereby the pursuit of efficiency can be enhanced. Ultimately, legislators decide how governance of industry interaction will be allocated between these two institutional forms. Whereas competition law can govern interaction in most industries, where the underlying economic conditions are sufficiently different, industry-specific regulation offers advantages. However, its weakness is the risk of capture, leading to the subjugation of the efficiency end to the pursuit of other objectives. But if the regulatory institution could be bound in some way to pursue an efficiency objective, could the risk of capture be averted? New Zealand's “light-handed” regulation, instituted in 1987, attempted to enshrine the pursuit of efficiency into statute, first by relying solely upon competition law and contractual undertakings and subsequently creating a regulatory body with an explicit legislated efficiency directive. In practice, however, the inability of a government prioritizing efficiency to bind its successors to pursue the same objective renders sector strategy, and hence the efficiency objective, subject to political capture. Consequently, inherent systemic instability attends the pursuit of the efficiency objective and the institutions overseeing its enforcement.

Keywords: K21, K23, L43, L51

Suggested Citation

Howell, Bronwyn E., Politics and the Pursuit of Telecommunications Sector Efficiency in New Zealand (June 2010). Journal of Competition Law and Economics, Vol. 6, Issue 2, pp. 253-276, 2010, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1624149 or http://dx.doi.org/nhp016

Bronwyn E. Howell (Contact Author)

Victoria University of Wellington - School of Management ( email )

Wellington 6001
New Zealand
+64 4 463 5563 (Phone)
+64 4 463 5566 (Fax)

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