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The uncertain future of the New Caledonia Competition Authority

It is an essential institution to fight against the high cost of living which suffocates the French overseas. In New Caledonia, the brand new Competition Authority, established five years ago, has just seen the departure of its first president, who will expire on December 31, 2022. Aurélie Zoude-Le Berre, who joined the he National Assembly as Adviser, presents an encouraging assessment of these beginnings, after 350 recommendations issued. “The authority, created on the basis of metropolitan law, will have been a fairly disruptive organization in the New Caledonian economic environment. We managed to install it to spread the culture of competition and impose the idea of ​​a referee who does his job. » The task is great: on food products alone, the UFC-Que Choisir of New Caledonia estimates that the prices are twice as high as in mainland France.

However, the senior official does not hide her concern about the future of the independent authority. His succession at the head of this institution is still not assured. Marked by monopolies and a high level of imports, New Caledonia has the characteristics of a counter economy. During a seminar organized in 2020 in French Polynesia with the other national competition authorities, Aurélie Zoude-Le Berre recalled that a dozen families share 90% of the economy. While foreign direct investment was massive to finance the two new nickel factories between 2005 and 2017, the external contribution is now negative in the territory, according to the World Bank.

“The power of the different Caledonian families still exists. This is a historical heritage and, for there to be new entrants, a certain number of barriers should be removed, access to financing should be promoted, possibly helping the “small” rather than the “big”explains M.me Zoude-Le Berre. In the aviation sector, we have made a very general recommendation which aims to introduce a system of control of public aid granted to companies taking into account their impact on competition. If you only lend to the “big guys”, you necessarily strengthen their position. However, these aids are not controlled at all. »

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The authority proposed to the New Caledonian government to reflect on a framework for this type of public aid. “This is done in the Dominican Republic, for example, which is an island territory with an independent government and a small competition authority. They have just put in place a system of advice proposed to the government to assess the impact on competition that certain public aids or subsidies may have, before they are granted. »

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