Pacific Government and State-Owned Enterprise Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) met in Port Vila, Vanuatu, last week to discuss best practices and shared experiences to do with SOEs.

The workshop participants were all senior executives representing State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) in the transport, electricity, water, and telecommunications sectors.

In the Pacific, the delivery of utilities and transport services are subsidized by governments to improve the efficiency and reliability of their delivery. This is necessary because the fees collected from the users of these services are insufficient to cover the cost of delivery. The beneficiaries of these subsidized essential services are often remote communities or poorer segments of the population, so the financial support these services receive from governments is often described as governments' Community Service Obligations (CSOs).

"ADB is committed to assisting utilities reach out to underserved communities in primarily rural areas. These low or non-revenue community service obligations are critical to these rural areas where most people still live in the Pacific," said Naomi Chakwin, Regional Director of ADB's Pacific Liaison and Coordination Office in Australia. "The workshop acted as a forum for discussing implementation issues and learning from best practices in costing, contracting and monitoring these obligations."

The Workshop also provided participants with advice about when and how to encourage private sector participation in infrastructure.

"The workshop was the first of its kind in the region on the important topic of Community Service Obligations," said Managing Director of the Papua New Guinea Water Board and Director of PNG Sustainable Energy, Patrick Amini. "I found the workshop very informative and it has also given me the basis and a network of people in the region to help me develop a CSO delivery policy for my own organization."

ADB continues to assist the region with State-Owned Enterprise reform. "SOE reform involves placing State-Owned Enterprises on a commercial footing so that they have efficiency incentives and provide greater transparency to their shareholders. Enhanced delivery of CSOs by state-owned enterprises is an integral part of SOE reform", added Ms. Chakwin.

The Delivering Community Service Obligations in the Pacific Workshop was conducted as part of the Asian Development Bank's Private Sector Development Initiative (PSDI), a partnership it shares with the Australian Government's overseas aid program (AusAID).