Friday, 8 August 2008

New initiative, more jobs for bureaucrats?

In "Anti-Counterfeiting Initiative Aimed At Protecting African Medical Industries", written for the excellent IP Watch, Wagdy Sawahel reviews the communiqué that followed “Protecting the consumer against counterfeit products through interagency and sub-regional collaboration,” a workship organised by the Food and Drugs Board in collaboration with the Ghanaian Institute of Packaging and the coalition against counterfeit and illicit trade. The conclusion of the workshop was that
"West African people should establish a medical anti-counterfeiting task force to promote local herbal medicines by protecting indigenous knowledge and genetic property and establishing benefit-sharing systems in addition to tackling the spread of cheap, fake medicines that are causing an unnecessary loss of life".
To protect the local medical industries, this task force would prepare a mechanism for reporting counterfeit issues, including its harmful effect on local economy and health, launching awareness creation programmes as well as advising governments and local companies on ways to increase the use of security features on their products including medicines, cosmetics and medical devices.

The bit that depresses this writer is this:
"Besides having a permanent secretariat and four subcommittees, namely, legislation and regulation, public education and awareness creation, information and intelligence gathering, and human resource and capacity development, the task force is expected to have representatives from government, industry, trade associations and consumers".
This is another example of the establishment of bureaucratic structures in response to devastatingly dangerous threats to health, safety and the economic well-being of millions of people.

The counterfeiters are tremendously successful. They make large sums of money with the willing connivance of many helpers, including distributors, retailers and in many cases consumers. They pay no taxes and, despite the large scale of their combined operations, take surprisingly little risk. Notably, they have no secretariats, executive structures, committees, subcommittees, governing bodies, task-forces and panels of experts representing industry, government and consumers. It is increasingly becoming the belief of this writer that the only effective way to deal with counterfeiters is to run anticounterfeiting operations in much the same way -- little or no bureaucratic burden, short chains of command and control, adequate funding at ground level and financial incentives for success. Do any of the readers of this weblog think along the same lines?

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