Private Sector Reforms in Pacific Assist Women, Update Business Laws, Boost Access to Finance - ADB Report

SYDNEY,  AUSTRALIA - Efforts by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) to promote the private sector in the Pacific through the co-financed private sector development initiative (PSDI) have boosted the ease of doing business in the region by modernizing outdated business laws, improving access to financial services, enhancing economic opportunities for women, and improving the efficiency of state-owned enterprises (SOEs), says a new ADB report. The fifth annual PSDI progress report documents PSDI activities and results since the program began.

The PSDI, established by ADB in 2006 with cofinancing from AusAID, is a regional facility that assists 14 Pacific island economies with reforms to remove the constraints to doing business in the Pacific. PSDI’s flexible structure enables it to respond quickly when a reform opportunity arises, while also remaining focused on long-term support.

“As PSDI continues to evolve and move into phase 3 and year 7 in 2013, growing demand on its financial and personnel resources are presenting increasing challenges,” said Andrea Iffland, Regional Director of ADB’s Pacific Liaison and Coordination Office in Sydney. “We look forward to working with Pacific governments and the private sector to further promote private sector oriented reform in close coordination with AusAID and other development partners.”

PSDI helped modernize business laws (companies and secured transactions acts) in 8 Pacific island countries. PSDI assisted these countries with installing and maintaining electronic registries subsequent to the passage of modernized laws. In Solomon Islands, ADB assistance in these reforms, has led to increased lending and much faster loan approvals. It is now possible to register a business online in no more than 2 days.

Women’s economic empowerment is a major theme of PSDI. The reforms are helping women register formal businesses more easily at lower cost and are boosting women’s access to financial services by expanding existing microfinance institutions into remote areas of Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste. In Papua New Guinea, PSDI assisted Nationwide Microbank develop an innovative mobile phone-linked bank account, MiCash.

PSDI has identified the burden that SOEs place on the economies of many countries in the region and has assisted with improving the efficiency of SOE operations. It is also helping Pacific island economies improve policies for public–private partnerships.

The report notes that planned PSDI activities for the remainder of 2012 and beyond include deepening existing reforms and further strengthening efforts to encourage the economic empowerment of women. It will also be active in the microstates in the region. PSDI’s continuing efforts are in line with AusAID’s new Private Sector Development Strategy.