Cook Islands | 3 March 2017

PSDI Hosts Fifth Pacific Business Registries Workshop

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 PSDI hosted its 5th Pacific Business Registries Workshop in Sydney on 2-3 March.

The workshop, co-hosted with the New Zealand Companies Office, brought together staff from business and secured transactions registries in 13 Pacific countries as well as government and private sector representatives and technical experts.

Participants discussed issues confronting Pacific registries, recent developments, and the opportunities for, status of, or outcomes from registry reforms.

“Most of the participants have benefited PSDI support to modernise their business laws and establish online registries that have reduced red tape and lifted barriers to business,” said PSDI International Business Law Expert Aaron Levine.

Each country’s delegation presented on the status of their registry. These included a number of countries that had recently completed reforms, such as:
• Vanuatu, which implemented an online registry covering companies, business names, and charitable associations
• Papua New Guinea and Samoa, which have developed online personal property securities registries for loans secured by movable property, such as inventory, agricultural goods and equipment, accounts receivable, and machinery
• Solomon Islands, which now has an online registry that covers foreign investment, companies, and business names, and
• Tonga, which is finalizing a new foreign investment act that will make it easier for overseas investors to invest.

“There are consistent benefits when company registries are moved online,” said PSDI International Business Law Expert Terry Reid during an interview at the workshop with the Fiji Sun.

PSDI International Business Law Expert Aaron Levine presents on recent developments
in Pacific registry reform. At the close of the workshop Mr Levine announced he would
soon be ceasing work with PSDI, prompting a farewell song from the participants, 
many of whom he had worked with personally over the years.

“First, transactions costs fall, as there is less work and resources required in processing registrations, and the personal cost of using these services fall, as there is usually no longer any need for travel.

“The overall time needed for registrations reduces enormously: average pre-reform processes take three-to-four weeks while the post-reform average is one-to-two days.

“This increased convenience and reduced costs drives increased registrations—we see the rate of company registrations almost double once registries move online. And this, in turn, leads to more businesses participating in the formal economy.

“In addition, online registries are a huge help to remote communities. The Pacific is a big place, and these online platforms are an excellent vehicle for allowing near universal access to what were previously hard to access registration services.”

He added the increased accessibility and reduced cost online registries helped women business owners formalize their businesses.

Other presentations were delivered at the workshop by technical specialists and PSDI experts, who discussed topics such as opportunities for governments to accept mobile and internet-based payments, and the challenges of compliance with international anti-money laundering standards.

“We are helping some business registries to establish online processing of payments, which will make these services even faster and more accessible and provide a model that can be replicated by other government departments,” said ADB Private Sector Development Specialist Liliana Warid.

“We will also be continuing to assist the governments of Cook Islands, Fiji and Timor-Leste with secured transactions reform processes."

Participants also heard how recent reforms have led to Pacific registries being considered global leaders.

“I would say with regards to business law reform and registries, really, the Pacific, in some aspects, is leading the world,” said PSDI Registries Expert Anthony Frazier in an interview with Pacnews at the workshop.

“PSDI through ADB has been very successful. We think there’s been a significant impact on ministries of commerce and various agencies that run these registries, and the law reforms have made it much easier for people to start their business. That’s the whole point: for people to be able to make their own livelihood,” said Mr Frazier.

PSDI international business law consultant Terry Reid welcomes participants to the
workshop at ADB's Pacific Liaison and Coordination Office.

“We’ve also put in laws that make it easier for people to use moveable property as collateral for loans. Banks often times use land as collateral. In the Pacific not many people have access to land, so the new laws that allow movable property like equipment, trucks, restaurant equipment, even accounts receivable to be used as collateral really opens up business opportunities for small business to gain credit where they did not have the opportunity to before.”