YEREVAN, ARMENIA – High-level government officials from Timor-Leste at an Asian Development Bank (ADB)-European Investment Bank (EIB) joint workshop have learned firsthand how Armenia has transformed its water supply sector by implementing reforms and partnering with the private sector.
Aderito Hugo da Costa, Vice President of the National Parliament; Rui Araujo, Advisor to the Ministry of Finance; and Virgilio Guterres, Director General EDTL, attended the workshop on Improving Water Management through Public-Private Partnerships on 12-13 November. ADB is helping the Government of Timor-Leste to assess the feasibility of public-private partnership arrangements to support improved water services delivery in the capital city, Dili.
The Timor-Leste delegation met with key water sector stakeholders on 11-12 November, including officials from the State Committee on Water and Economy, Public Services Regulatory Commission, as well as water supply operators Yerevan Water and Armenia Water and Sewerage Corporation. The visit was financed through an ADB technical assistance project, Strengthening Water Sector Management and Service Delivery.
Timor-Leste and Armenia may be thousands of kilometers apart, but both countries have faced similar challenges in ensuring their populations have access to safe, reliable, water supply services.
Since 2000, the Government of Armenia has significantly improved service quality by effectively delegating service provision responsibility to the private sector. At the same time the government has maintained overall responsibility for policymaking, regulation, and ownership of water supply infrastructure. It has established an independent multi-utility regulatory body to regulate tariff levels and service standards.
Following independence in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the population of Armenia, a country of around 3.2 million people, only had access to water supply for a few hours a day because of dilapidated infrastructure, poor service delivery arrangements, and rising demand for water services.
In Timor-Leste, much of the water supply infrastructure was destroyed in 1999 during post-referendum violence. In addition, infrastructure has been deteriorating over time due to inadequate maintenance and insufficient capital investments. In Dili, only 36% of the population has a piped water supply. On average customers in Dili receive just 6 hours of water per day.
As Timor-Leste considers how to achieve the Strategic Development Plan goal of providing clean 24-hour water supply to the country’s population by 2030, the Armenian reform experience has provided important examples that may be incorporated into the country’s own water sector reform strategy. Some of the key lessons learned from the Armenian experience include the need for political support for sector reforms at the highest levels, the existence of a committed government reform champion to drive the reform process, and adequate investment in infrastructure development.
ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members—48 from the region. In 2013, ADB assistance totaled $21.0 billion, including cofinancing of $6.6 billion.