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Cook Islands | 31 March 2018

PSDI Hosts Biennial Leaders Seminar on State-Owned Enterprise Reform in Island Economies

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Xianbin Yao, Director General of the Asian Development Bank’s Pacific Department, addressing attendees on the first day of the seminar.

In March, PSDI hosted 14 Pacific island government officials at its biennial Leaders Seminar on State-Owned Enterprise (SOE) Reform in Island Economies.

Participants were invited to discuss the working draft of the forthcoming PSDI publication Finding Balance 2016: Benchmarking the Performance of State-Owned Enterprises in Island Economies, and to share SOE reform experiences and strategies. The seminar was a unique opportunity to learn from peers and to explore global experiences of SOE reform.

Opening the seminar, Xianbin Yao, Director General of the Asian Development Bank’s Pacific Department, commended the participants for progress made in commercializing and improving the performance of SOEs in the Pacific. This outcome, he stated, was a direct result of the reforms undertaken in recent years. In five of the eight Pacific island countries participating in the study, average profitability of the SOE portfolio had improved during the 2010– 2014 period.

Richard Prebble, former Minister of SOEs in New Zealand, shared his experience of implementing one of the most comprehensive and successful SOE reform programs undertaken in a developed country. He encouraged the participants to maintain their focus on commercializing SOEs, introducing competition, and developing partnerships with the private sector.

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Chris Russell, PSDI’s State-owned Enterprise and Governance Expert, presenting a
summary of the 2016 benchmarking study of SOE performance in island economies.

“SOE reform is possible and extremely cost-effective,” he said, “but it requires strong and sustained political commitment.” Chris White, Director of the Commercial Operations Group, New Zealand Treasury, corroborated this view, and shared Treasury’s recent experience with restructuring social housing and implementing public–private partnerships.

Tonga’s Minister of Public Enterprises, Poasi Mataele Tei,said the workshop was a valuable networking event. “The seminar was an excellent opportunity to speak frankly about the challenges of SOE reform and to consider new approaches to strengthen advocacy and build consensus for reform,” he said.

Finding Balance 2016 will be published in August 2016.