Market


Yesterday I participated in two panel discussions at the Sri Lanka Internet Governance Forum 2017. IGFs are primarily intended to permit an exchange of ideas among public, private and civil society stakeholders, helping to make the overall process of governance better. Government was represented on both panels as was the private sector. The audience was not the most informed or energetic, but that was possibly because the organizers conducted proceedings in English. In the first panel the theme was SDGs.
One of the most critical steps in an inquiry on anti-competitive practices or a merger/acquisition is the definition of the relevant market. For example, did the relevant market for a newspaper merger include radio and TV stations? In the 1950s, Dupont was ruled to be non-dominant in the relevant market which was defined as wrapping material, not clear, waterproof cellophane. Just based on that the government case collapsed. In the case below, the government lawyers wanted to define the relevant market narrowly to stop a merger.
Spectrum is a scarce resource, made even more scarce by the difficulties governments have in refarming it. Efficient use of spectrum should be a high priority. It is obvious that allowing firms to use market mechanisms to use the resource more efficiently is a good thing. The question is why this is not done. One part of the answer is the need of governments to maximize revenues from spectrum.
Last month in Yangon, I said to a group of Parliamentarians that I hoped there would be no SIM riots in Myanmar similar to those that occurred when competition was introduced in Bangladesh and Pakistan. A riot is a crude response to a mismatch of supply and demand. Looks like the mismatch exists in Myanmar, but that the people are a lot more sophisticated. They have created a secondary market and are making money from the mismatch. Much better response to toppling tables and breaking glass.
We have always been interested in how mobile technology can reduce the frictions of time and space and thereby improve the functioning of markets. If the market being improved is that for agri produce, there is no disagreement. Eliminating the middle (wo)man would call forth a wave of approbation. But in the case being reported, the demise of the middle (wo)man is being mourned. May be we will be not looked at as crazy when we talk about a continuing role for the middle (wo)man in agri markets.
In North America, Eli Noam is an agenda setter and has a knack for catchy titles. His article “Let them eat cellphones” set the agenda for a session at ICTD 2012 in Atlanta. The session was, unusually for a North American event, highly international. Judith Mariscal of Mexico (and our sister organization DIRSI) chaired. Carleen Maitland of the US National Science Foundation talked about the importance of fiber for national research and education networks in Africa.
LIRNEasia’s Lead Economist Harsha de Silva had a dream. It was that information would reduce price volatility and waste in agricultural markets and that both consumers and producers would benefit from better functioning markets. Unlike Jensen who studied the effects of price information communicated through mobiles on the market for “wild” fish and Akers who studied mobiles’ effect on grain markets (a little more complicated than fish, because the decision to grow or not is now a factor and because transportation costs are not negligible), Harsha picked perhaps the hardest of markets: small-scale production of perishable vegetables and fruits. The studies are ongoing. But we now have the ongoing research being implemented as a commercial service: Sri Lanka’s top celco Dialog Telekom is offering a trading platform based on short message services (SMS) that can help farmers to sell their produce and create a forward market for agriculture produce, officials said.