Having just finished teaching a course for regulators from five South Asian nations, this para from Pratap Bhanu Mehta’s column on state capacity in India resonated with me. The second black hole of the state is regulatory certainty. The biggest regression over UPA 2 was that it continued to multiply regulators, while at the same time moving away from principled regulation. It got into trouble in sector after sector because it could not stick to regulatory frameworks with credibility; even in PPPs, it was amenable to arbitrary discretion. This also created openings where other institutions like courts could compound uncertainties.
On Dec 2-3, 2012, the Iraqi Ministry of Science and Technology organized the 2nd National e Government Conference in Baghdad. Senior Research Fellow Subhash Bhatnagar made the opening presentation. I made a presentation on infrastructure along with Shahani Weerawarana who spoke on public private partnerships.
Bangladesh is considering the issuance of 3G frequencies (they should get the license renewal mess sorted; but that is another story). The question of establishing a single 3G network that multiple operators would jointly own and use has been floated by an important stakeholder, the CEO of Banglalink. This is a theoretically good, but practically bad, idea. So LIRNEasia explained why in Bangladesh’s premier English language daily, the Daily Star: The operation of multiple 3G networks, owned and operated by different limited-liability companies, may be sub-optimal if seen solely from resource optimisation or planning perspective. But it is actually the most efficacious for the ground conditions in Bangladesh.
Yesterday, I spoke to a large and restive crowd (made so by lack of air conditioning and a delayed start) in Matara (main city in the South of Sri Lanka) at the launch of the Pathfinder Foundation’s first book, a Sinhala translation of Janos Kornai’s Toward a free economy. I was asked to talk about globalization and the relevance of Kornai’s ideas for facing the challenges posed by globalization. In this talk that I pieced together thanks to time zone differences that caused me to wake up at 3 in the morning while in the US, I illustrated the issues referring to Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), a broad area of service exports for which efficient, flexible and low-cost telecom is a pre-condition. I think the talk provides the "big picture" of the necessity of telecom reforms of the type that we at LIRNEasia are involved in. If we are to go beyond simply giving people phones, to giving them "money in the pocket and hope in the heart" this big picture is essential.