Delegates from across the region gathered this week to deliberate on key economic regulation, fiscal reform and financial sector issues in the Pacific.

Attending the series of workshops being held in Nadi, Fiji, are Pacific Islands Forum country representatives as well as delegates from the University of the South Pacific (USP), Asia Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank.

The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat-organised workshops were being held in response to specific mandates by Forum Economic and Trade Ministers.

Economic regulation

The first workshop on economic regulation, which concluded on Wednesday (27 August) deliberated on issues around competition, pricing and access and fair trading and consumer protection.

"The workshop was geared towards facilitating the exchange of regulatory knowledge and good experiences, and creating awareness on regional regulatory priorities and initiatives to promote good regulatory practices in Forum Island Countries," explained Mr Teo, Acting Secretary General of the Forum Secretariat.

The workshop also focused on highlighting national and regional regulatory priorities, and initiatives in response that Forum Island Countries could consider in their efforts to improve regulatory outcomes.

"Previous workshops and studies have found that the greatest potential for enhancement of economic regulation is at the level of regional provision of services, mainly in terms of technical support for regulators and countries that choose to participate," added Mr Teo.

"While the extent of support required will vary from country to country, and it is desirable that there be flexibility in the way and the level at which the support is provided, at the same time there have been a number of issues and challenges common to Forum Island Countries, and common strategies and approaches can be developed."

The regional stepladder approach

Forum Secretariat Economic Adviser, Sanjesh Naidu, remarked that extremely thorough group discussions were held by participants at the economic regulation workshop.

"In identifying common sectors where economic regulation would be most significant, participants came up with a Regional Regulatory Stepladder approach, identifying short-term and medium-term goals," said Mr Naidu.

"Participants also recognised a number of activities and actions to be taken at national and regional levels."

These included, for the short-term: establishing pre-conditions at the national level to support regional initiatives; design and scope of a regional advisory service for utility regulation; and support for the facilitation of a regional resource facility for telecommunications sector regulation for Forum Island Countries. These actions are aligned to Development Partner support identified at the workshop.

For the medium-term, the workshop supported setting up a regional regulator for one priority sector, to eventually extend to other priority sectors.

"Group discussions amongst the Smaller Islands States identified proposed areas for support, such as shipping, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and public utilities," added Mr Naidu.

Priority sectors would be identified imminently for a Regional Regulator project to be put forward for consideration by Forum Economic Ministers at their meeting in 2009.

Fiscal and financial sector reforms

The second workshop on fiscal and financial sector reforms, which concludes today, focuses on dissemination of findings of the study 'Revenue Consequences of Trade Reform', which examined the levels of revenue loss which each FIC can expect to face when implementing trade related reforms. The workshop will also cover recommendations from the report for each country on how to address revenue loss.