LIRNEasia is a regional ICT policy and regulation think tank active across the Asia Pacific

One universal service fund that works: Pakistan

The Bangkok Post has carried a report on the exchanges about universal service funds at the Islamabad Mobile 2.0 Expert Forum. The reporter initiated the exchange between the CEOs of the Pakistan universal service fund and LIRNEasia. Here is his account.

Rohan Samarajiva, CEO of Lirne-Asia, has been a long opponent of USO funds and has often stated that they are a waste of money which distort the market, and that USO-type projects should be funded from central budgeting process instead.

However, Samarajiva makes an exception for Pakistan which has succeeded in pushing out USO funds. Other countries are good at collecting money, but not spending. $4 billion (130 billion baht) is locked up in USO funds in Brazil and an equal amount again in India. Seventy five percent of the USO money is stuck in governments, unspent.

The Pakistani model is different as it has private participation in its governance model. Iftikhar said that 50 percent of his board is from private operators and the charter is such that the board is not complete if even one of the private sector members is absent.

The USO is also registered as a company rather than part of the regulator, which makes the decision-making process much faster.

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