WP/09/45Competition in the Financial Sector:Overview of Competition PoliciesStijn Claessens
2009 International Monetary FundWP/09/45IMF Working PaperResearch DepartmentCompetition in the Financial Sector: Overview of Competition PoliciesPrepared by Stijn Claessens1March 2009AbstractThis Working Paper should not be reported as representing the views of the IMF.The views expressed in this Working Paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily representthose of the IMF or IMF policy. Working Papers describe research in progress by the author(s) and arepublished to elicit comments and to further debate.As in other sectors, competition in finance matters for allocative, productive and dynamicefficiency. Theory suggests, however, that unfettered competition is not first best given the specialfeatures of finance. I review these analytics and describe how to assess the degree of competition inmarkets for financial services. Existing research shows that the degree of competition greatly variesacross markets, largely driven by barriers to entry and exit. I argue that changes in financial servicesindustries require updated competition policies and institutional arrangements, but that practicesstill fall short. Furthermore, I show that developing countries face some specific competitionchallenges.JEL Classification Numbers: G10, G18, G28, L1, L5Keywords:financial services, competition, competition policy, contestability,stability, foreign banks, emerging marketsAuthor’s E-Mail Address:[email protected] prepared for the G-20 meeting on Competition in the Financial Sector, Bali, February 16-17,2008. Stijn Claessens is Assistant Director in the Research Department of the IMF, a Professor ofInternational Finance Policy at the University of Amsterdam, and a Research Fellow at the CEPR. Iwould like to thank Thorsten Beck, Jaap Bikker, Giovanni Dell’Ariccia and Luc Laeven for usefulcomments and discussions, the discussant, Mario Nakani, participants at the G-20 meeting, participantsat seminars at the IMF Regional Office in Tokyo, the World Trade Organization (Geneva) and Bruegel(Brussels), and the referees and the editor for useful comments.
2ContentsPageI. Introduction .3II. Nature and Status of Financial Sector Competition .5A. Effects of Competition in the Financial Sector: Theory .6Development and Efficiency, Static and Dynamic .6Access to Financial Services.6Stability.7B. The Determinants of Competition and Assessing Competition:Theory and Empirics.7Theory of the Determinants of Competition.7Empirical Approaches to Measure Competition.8The Pazar and Rosse Methodology.9C. Empirical Approaches to Explain Competition .11Other Empirical Regularities .12Country and Regional Studies .12Cross-country Studies .15Internationalization .16D. Tools to Analyze .17E. Current Status .19III. Implication for Competition Policy in the Financial Sector .19A. Approaches.20B. Institutional Arrangements.23IV. Conclusion .26Tables1. PR-Measures (H-statistics) of Competitiveness of Banking Systems Around the World.34References.27
3I. INTRODUCTIONCompetition in the financial sector matters for a number of reasons. As in other industries, thedegree of competition in the financial sector matters for the efficiency of production of financialservices, the quality of financial products and the degree of innovation in the sector. The viewthat competition in financial services is unambiguously good, however, is more naive than inother industries and vigorous rivalry may not be the first best. Specific to the financial sector isthe effect of excessive competition on financial stability, long recognized in theoretical andempirical research and, most importantly, in the actual conduct of (prudential) policy towardsbanks. There are other complications, however, as well. It has been shown, theoretically andempirically, that the degree of competition in the financial sector can matter (negatively orpositively) for the access of firms and households to financial services, in turn affecting overalleconomic growth.In terms of the factors driving competition in the financial sector and the empirical measurementof competition, one needs to consider the standard industrial organization factors, such asentry/exit and contestability. But financial services provision also has many network properties,in their production (e.g., use of information networks), distribution (e.g., use of ATMs), and intheir consumption (e.g., the large externalities of stock exchanges and the agglomeration effectsin liquidity). This makes for complex competition structures since aspects such as the availabilityof networks used or the first mover advantage in introducing financial contracts becomeimportant.Not only are many of the relationships and tradeoffs among competition, financial systemperformance, access to financing, stability, and finally growth, complex from a theoreticalperspective, but empirical evidence on competition in the financial sector has been scarce and tothe extent available often not (yet) clear. What is evident from theory and empirics, however, isthat these tradeoffs mean that it is not sufficient to analyze competitiveness from a narrowconcept alone or focus on one effect only. One has to consider competition as part of a broad setof objectives, including financial sector efficiency, access to financial services for varioussegments of users, and systemic financial sector stability, and consider possible tradeoffs amongthese objectives. And since competition depends on several factors, one has to consider a broadset of policy tools when trying to increase competition in the financial sector.In all, this means that competition policy in the financial sector is quite complex and can be hardto analyze. Empirical research on competition in the financial sector is also still at an early stage.The evidence nevertheless shows that factors driving competition and competition have beenimportant aspects of recent financial sector improvements. To date, greater competition havebeen achieved by traditional means: removing entry barriers, liberalizing product restrictions,abolishing restrictive market definitions, eliminating intra-sectoral restrictions, etc. Making inthis way financial systems more open and contestable, i.e., having low barriers to entry and exit,has generally led to greater product differentiation, lower cost of financial intermediation, moreaccess to financial services, and enhanced stability. The evidence for these effects is fairlyuniversal, from the US, EU and other developed countries to many developing countries.As globalization, technological improvements and de-regulation further progress, the gains ofcompetition can be expected to become even more wide-spread across and within countries. At
4the same time, once the easier steps have been taken, policies to achieve effective competition inall dimensions and balancing the trade-offs between competition and other concerns, becomemore challenging. The rapid competitive gains due to the first rounds of liberalization over thepast few decades will be hard to sustain going forward. Complexity will also become greatergoing forward as financial services industries evolve, financial markets and products becomemore complex and global, and new regulatory and competition policy issues arise. The rapidlychanging world of financial services provision and the many new forms of financial servicesprovision means all the more that approaches to competition issues need to be adjusted.This is the more important since competition policy in the financial sector is often already behindthat in many other sectors and still a missing part of the financial sector development agenda inmany countries. Too often, competition is seen as an afterthought, rather than being consideredan essential ingredient of a financial sector development strategy. To assure markets remain andbecome even more competitive will require taking into account the special properties of financialmarkets, including the existence of many networks in finance. But here the theoretical andempirical literature is just catching up with changes. And competition policy will become moredifficult institutionally to organize, both within and across countries, yet necessary given theglobal dimensions of many financial markets these days. Furthermore, financial systems areoften entrenched, in developing countries especially, including through links between thefinancial and real sectors, and odious relationships with the political sector as well, all of whichcan make achieving effective competition complex.Recent events in global financial markets, while too recent to draw firm conclusions, highlightsome issues on which it will be necessary to reflect. The global dimensions of the financial crisisclearly confirm the need for many policies, whether aimed at stability or at improving markerfunctioning, to operate in a consistent manner across jurisdictions, especially for systemicallyimportant financial institutions and activities. The crisis also makes clear the need for a moreholistic approach to prudential regulation, at both the institutional and macroeconomic level, toaddress wider systemic risks. This objective will likely require measures aimed at strengtheningcapital and liquidity requirements for individual institutions, avoiding the build-up of systemicrisk across institutions and the economy over time, and improving national and internationalresources and financial sector responses to distress.The financial crisis has also shown the need to strengthen market discipline, addressing keyinformation gaps and encouraging more robust private governance and risk managementsystems. One other lesson the financial crisis calls for is to revisit the institutional infrastructurefor financial services provision, including the role of rating agencies and the need for derivativestrading to move to more regulated markets. The crisis also confirms the need for competitionpolicy to adjust and adapt to developments in financial markets. As some have suggested, in thecontext of regulatory failures and weaknesses in private market discipline, increased competitioncan lead to excessive risk-taking, implying the need for competition policy to consider broaderaspects. When considering these and other changes, the new architecture will need to take intoaccount the inherent limitations of regulation and supervision, and guards against overregulation.The paper reviews the state of knowledge on these issues and how competition policy is andshould be organized. It does so in the following manner. Section 2 provides a review of
5literature, both of the nature and effects of competition in the financial sector as well as of howto go about measuring competition in general and in the financial sector specifically. The sectiondiscusses, among others, the approaches and methodology used to tests for the degree ofcompetition in the financial markets of a particular country or market, presents some data onmeasures that are starting to be used for assessing financial sector competitiveness, shows howthese measures relate to structural and policy variables, and what tools to use to measurecompetition. It also discusses the current state of affairs in competition policy and how changesin financial services industries underway affect the nature of competition. Section 3 discussesthe implications for competition policy, how to approach it, and how to organize it. In the lastsection, the paper present its conclusions, although not many definitive. It does stress, however,that practices in many countries fall far short of the large need for better competition policy inthe financial sector.II. NATURE AND STATUS OF FINANCIAL SECTOR COMPETITIONWhat is special about competition in financial sector? And how does competition matter? Thetwo questions are closely related and depend in turn on what dimensions one analyzes. For thepurpose of this paper, I consider the links between competition and the following threedimensions: financial sector development (including the efficiency of financial servicesprovision); access to financial services for households and firms (i.e., the availability, or lackthereof, of financial services at reasonable cost and convenience); and financial sector stability(i.e., the absence of systemic disturbances that have major real sector impact). Under the firstlink, development and efficiency, once can consider questions like: with greater competition, isthe system more developed, e.g., is it larger, does it provide better quality financialproducts/services, in a static and dynamic way; is it more efficient, i.e., exhibits a lower cost offinancial intermediation, is it less profitable; and is it closer to some competitive benchmark?Under access, once can consider whether access to financing, particularly for smaller firms andpoorer individuals, but also in general for households, large firms and other agents is improved,in terms of volume and costs, with greater competition. And in terms of stability, one canconsider whether the banking system has less volatility, fewer financial crises and is generallymore robust and its financial integrity higher with more competition.I consider what theory predicts on each of the three dimensions, since all are important and therecan be relationships among them, making analyzing any individually not complete.2 I thenreview the current empirical findings on the same dimensions, and some assessment of thedegree of competition in various financial markets. I next review what both theory and empiricspredict on what drives competition in the financial sector. I analyze specificallyinternationalization of financial services, which is growing rapidly and which has had anespecially large impact on financial sector competition in many developing countries. Lastly, Isuggest what these theory and empirical findings suggest in terms of what tools should regulatorsuse for the application of competition policy.2For a recent review of the theoretical literature on competition and banking, see Vives 2001.
6A. Effects of Competition in the Financial Sector: TheoryDevelopment and Efficiency, Static and DynamicAs a first-order effect, one expects increased competition in the financial sector to lead to lowercosts and enhanced efficiency of financial intermediation, greater product innovation, andimproved quality. Even though financial services have some special properties, the channels aresimilar to other industries. In a theoretical model, Besanko and Thakor (1992), for example,allowing for the fact that financial products are heterogeneous, analyze the allocationalconsequences of relaxing entry barriers and find that equilibrium loan rates decline and depositinterest rates increase, even when allowing for differentiated competition. In turn, by loweringthe costs of financial intermediation, and thus lowering the cost of capital for non-financial firms,more competitive banking systems lead to higher growth rates. Of course, they are not justefficiency and costs, but also the incentives of institutions and markets to innovate that are likelyaffected by the degree of competition.Access to Financial ServicesAs a first-order effect, greater development, lower costs, enhanced efficiency, and a greater andwider supply resulting from competition will lead to greater access. The relationships betweencompetition and banking system performance in terms of access to financing are more complex,however. The theoretical literature has analyzed how access can depend on the franchise valueof financial institutions and how the general degree of competition can negatively or positivelyaffect access. Market power in banking, for example, may, to a degree, be beneficial for accessto financing (Petersen and Rajan, 1995). With too much competition, banks may be less inclinedto invest in relationship lending (Rajan, 1992). At the same time, because of hold-up problems,too little competition may tie borrowers too much to an individual institution, making theborrower less willing to enter a relationship (Petersen and Rajan, 1994; and Boot and Thakor,2000). More competition can then, even with relationship lending, lead to more access.The quality of information can interact with the size and structure of the financial system toaffect the degree of access to financial services. Financial system consolidation can lead to agreater distance and thereby to less lending to more opaque firms such as SMEs. Improvementsin technology and better information that spur consolidation can be offsetting factors, however.Theory has shown some other complications. Some have highlighted that competition is partlyendogenous as financial institutions invest in technology and relationships (e.g., Hauswald andMarguez, 2003). Theory has also shown that technological progress lowering production ordistribution costs for financial services providers does not necessarily lead to more or betteraccess to finance. Models often end up with ambiguous effects of technological innovations,access to information, and the dynamic pattern of entry and exit on competition, access, stabilityand efficiency (e.g., Dell’Ariccia and Marquez, 2004, and Marquez, 2002). Increasedcompetition can, for example, lead to more access, but also to weaker lending standards, asobserved recently in the sub-prime lending market in the US (Dell’Ariccia, Laeven and Igan,2008) but also in other episodes.These effects are further complicated by the fact that network effects exist in many aspects ofsupply, demand or distribution of financial services. In financial services production, much used
7is made of information networks (e.g., credit bureaus). In distribution, networks are alsoextensively used (e.g., use of ATMs). Furthermore, in their consumption, many financial servicesdisplay network properties (e.g., liquidity in stock exchanges). As for other network industries,this makes competition complex (see further Ausubel, 1991, and Claessens, Dobos, Klingebieland Laeven, 2003).StabilityThe relationships between competition and stability are also not obvious. Many academics andespecially policy makers have stressed the importance of franchise value for banks inmaintaining incentives for prudent behavior. This in turn has led banking regulators to carefullybalance entry and exit. Licensing, for example, is in part used as a prudential policy, but oftenwith little regard for its impact on competition. This has often been a static view, however.Perotti and Suarez (2002) show in a formal model that the behavior of banks today will beaffected by both current and future market structure and the degree to which authorities willallow for a contestable, i.e., open, system in the future. In such a dynamic model, currentconcentration does not necessarily reduce risky lending, but an expected increase in futuremarket concentration can make banks choose to pursue safer lending today. More generally,there may not be a tradeoff between stability and increased competition as shown among othersby Allen and Gale (2004), Boyd and De Nicolò (2005) and reviewed recently by Allen and Gale(2007). Allen and Gale (2004) furthermore show that financial crises, possibly related to thedegree of competition, are not necessarily harmful for growth.B. The Determinants of Competition and Assessing Competition: Theory and EmpiricsI first review as what theory predicts drives competition, in general and specifically in thefinancial sector, and then what theory suggests on how best to measure competition and whattools can be used.Theory of the Determinants of CompetitionIn terms of empirical measurement and associated factors driving competition one can considerthree types of approaches: market structure and associated indicators; contestability andregulatory indicators to gauge contestability; and formal competition measures. Much attentionin policy context and empirical tests is given to market structure and the actual degree of entryand exit in particular markets as determining the degree of competition. The general StructureConduct-Performance (SCP) paradigm, the dominant paradigm in industrial organization from1950 till the 1970s, made links between structure and performance. Structure refers to marketstructure defined mainly by the concentration in the market. Conduct refers to the behavior offirms—competitive or collusive—in various dimensions (pricing, R&D, advertising, production,choice of technology, entry barriers, predation, etc.). And Performance refers to (social)efficiency, mainly defined by extent of market power, with greater market power implying lowerefficiency. The paradigm was based on the hypotheses that i) Structure influences Conduct (e.g.,lower concentration leads to more competitive the behavior of firms); ii) Conduct influencesPerformance (e.g., more competitive behavior leads to less market power and greater social
8efficiency). And iii) Structure therefore influences Performance (e.g., lower concentration leadsto lower market power).3Theoretically and empirically there are a number of problems with the SCP-paradigm and itsimplications that, directly and indirectly, structure determines performance. For one, structure isnot (necessarily) exogenous since market structure itself is affected by firms’ conduct and henceby performance. Another conceptual problem is that industries with rapid technologicalinnovation and much creative destruction, likely the financial sector, may have highconcentration and market power, but this is necessary to compensate these firms for theirinnovation and investment and does not mean reduced social welfare. Most importantly, anddifferent from the SCP-paradigm, the more general competition and contestability theorysuggests that market structure and actual degree of entry or exit are not necessarily the mostimportant factors in determining competition. The degree of contestability, that is, the degree ofabsence of entry and exit barriers, rather than actual entry, matters for competitiveness (Baumol,Panzar, and Willig, 1982). Contestable markets are characterized by operating under the threat ofentry. If a firm in a market with no entry or exit barriers raises its prices above marginal cost andbegins to earn abnormal profits, potential rivals will enter the market to take advantage of theseprofits. When the incumbent firm(s) respond(s) by returning prices to levels consistent withnormal profits, the new firms will exit. In this manner, even a single-firm market can showhighly competitive behavior.The theory of contestable markets has also drawn attention to the fact that there are several setsof conditions that can yield competitive outcomes, with competitive outcomes possible even inconcentrated systems since it does not mean that the firm is harming consumers by earningsuper-normal profits. On the other hand, collusive actions can be sustained even in the presenceof many firms. The applicability of the contestability theory to specific situations can vary,however, particularly as there are very few markets which are completely free of sunk costs andentry and exit barriers. Financial sector specific theory adds to this some specific considerations.While the threat of entry or exit can also be an important determinant of the behavior of financialmarket participants, issues such as information asymmetries, investment in relationships, the roleof technology, networks, prudential concerns, and other factors can matter as well fordetermining the effective degree of competition (see further Bikker and Spierdijk, 2008).Empirical Approaches to Measure CompetitionThere are three approaches that have been proposed for measuring competition. The firstempirical approach considers factors such as financial system concentration, the number ofbanks, or Herfindahl indices. It relies on the SCP paradigm, i.e., there being relationshipsbetween structure-conduct-performance, but does not directly gauge banks’ behavior. Thesecond considers regulatory indicators to gauge the degree of contestability. It takes into accountentry requirements, formal and informal barriers to entry for domestic and foreign banks, activity3Within this general paradigm, many aspects have been investigated. For example, there exist studies of the degreeto which firms deviate from a production-efficient frontier, so-called x-inefficiency (see Berger and Humphrey,1997, for an international survey of x-inefficiency studies for financial institutions).
9restrictions etc. It also considers changes over time in financial instruments, innovations, etc. asthese can lead to changes in the competitive landscape. The third set uses formal competitionmeasures, such as the so-called H-statistics, that proxies the reaction of output to input prices.These formal competition measures are theoretical well-motivated, and have often been used inother industries, but they do impose assumptions on (financial intermediaries’) cost andproduction functions.In terms of the first two approaches, theory has made clear that documenting an industry’sstructure, the degree of competition, its determinants, and its impacts can be complicated. Forone, the competitiveness of an industry cannot be measured by market structure indicators alone,such as number of institutions or concentration indexes. And no specific market concentrationmeasure is best: neither the number of firms, nor the market share of the top 3 or 5, or the oftenused Herfindahl index is necessarily the best. Second, traditional performance measures used infinance, such as the size of banks’ net interest margins or profitability or transaction costs instock markets, do not necessarily indicate the competitiveness of a financial system. Theseperformance measures are also influenced by a number of factors, such as a country’s macroperformance and stability, the form and degree of taxation of financial intermediation, the qualityof country’s information and judicial systems, and financial institution specific factors, such asleverage, the scale of operations and risk preferences. As such, these measures can be poorindicators of the degree of competition. Yet, they have often been so used as such in spite ofthese weaknesses. Fortunately, general structure and performance measures have declined inempirical studies in favor of more specific tests.Indeed, the third approach emphasizing that documenting the degree of competition requiresspecific measures and techniques has become more used. It points out that one needs to studyactual behavior—in terms of marginal revenue, pass-through cost pricing, etc.—using a modeland develop from there a specific measure of competitiveness. While such theoretical wellfounded tests have been conducted for many industries, it, particularly cross-country, was at anearly stage a decade or so ago for the financial sector (see Cetorelli, 1999). More and more,however, formal empirical tests for competition are being applied to the financial sector, mostlyto banking systems in individual countries (see Bikker and Spierdjik 2008 for a review). Dataproblems were previously a hindrance for the cross-country research—since little bank-level datawere available outside of the main developed countries, but recently established databases havealso allowed for better empirical work comparing countries.The Pazar and Rosse MethodologyGenerally, as in other sectors, the degree of competition is measured with respect to the actualbehavior of (marginal) bank conduct. Broad cross-country studies using formal methodologiesare Claessens and Laeven (2004) and Bikker and Spierdijk (2007). Using bank-level data andapplying the Panzar and Rosse (1987; PR) methodology, the first study estimates the degree ofcompetition in 50 countries’ banking systems. Specifically, it investigates the extent to which a
10change in factor input prices is reflected in (equilibrium) revenues earned by a specific bank.The PR-model is, as is typical, estimated using pooled samples for each country.4Under perfect competition, an increase in
In all, this means that competition policy in the financial sector is quite complex and can be hard to analyze. Empirical research on competition in the financial sector is also still at an early stage. The evidence nevertheless shows that factors driving competition and competition have been important aspects of recent financial sector .
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