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The limits of open acess as a regulatory yardstick in the regulation of utilities in Latin America

By Ignacio De León

Abstract

This paper contends that the identification of a pro-competitive agenda in the process of regulatory reform undertaken in many developing countries, particularly in the field of utilities regulation, ultimately rests on the vision held by the authority about the sources of market failures. Conventional Industrial Organization theory assumes that the exercise of market power by incumbent firms limits the access of potential competitive entrants, and therefore, government regulation should curb such power. However, the existence of market “power” is an inference from conventional “equilibrium” thinking on markets and competition, where such power is associated with the static conditions of markets, away from the efficient equilibrium epitomized by the Perfect Competition model. By logical inference, an alternative “market process” view that regards markets as entities subject to constant disequilibrium should lead to alternative normative conclusions. Under this alternative view, exploring the role of rules and institutions is essential for the analysis of “efficient” market outcomes. Such efficiency is related to the capacity of market participants to coordinate their productive activities, and complementary entrepreneurial synergies. This paper outlines an alternative network competition perspective, focused on the integration of complementary capabilities, as a regulatory yardstick. This view balances the rights of incumbent firms to exploit their rights, and the possibilities of third parties to integrate into the network concerned on a non-discriminatory basis, thereby preserving the investments of incumbents on a more equitable basis. It also explores the experience of selected Latin American countries in the development of this network competition approach.

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