regulation Archives — Page 5 of 7 — LIRNEasia


These were framing comments I made at the Panel discussion on “Regulatory challenges arising from the new mobile ecosystem,” GSMA Public Policy Forum at the Mobile Asia Expo 2013, Shanghai, 27 June 2013. The keywords are ecosystem and regulatory. It is widely recognized that the emerging Internet-centric communication system is far more complex than the old voice-centric one and that many more actors are involved, beyond the telecom operators, their vendors, regulators and policy makers. In particular, content and applications providers play an increasingly important role. Unfortunately, they are not represented on this panel, a shortcoming that I hope will be remedied in future episodes of what has to be a continuing conversation.
That is the title of a 2013 Utilities Policy article by Malcolm Abbott and Xiaoying Ma. I was quite intrigued because it addresses the central problem sought to be addressed by the Pacific ICT Regulatory Resource Center (PiRRC), that LIRNEasia has been assisting with over the past two years. As is unfortunately the case with too many peer-reviewed journal articles these days, there are few new findings/insights. But the quotes below pertain directly to the problem being tackled by the region’s regulators and the World Bank and the ADB (though there is no mention of the PiRRC, which has been in existence since 2011): A number of strategies have been made to ensure staffing and expertise levels. One approach is to employ specialist consultants outside of the country.
Yury Sokolov is the vice-president of Rusatom Overseas, a state-owned Russian nuclear energy outfit. Bangladesh has planned for a nuclear reactor to produce commercial power with Rusatom’s help. Mr. Sokolov underscores the development of skilled manpower, management system and relevant laws prior to building the reactor. His emphasize on building proper infrastructure is striking.
LIRNEasia works on infrastructure policy and regulation. It also has expertise in disaster risk reduction. That means that we have a natural interest in critical infrastructure issues. This is an area I had published in, even before LIRNEasia came into being. The subject was on assigning responsibility for risk reduction by regulators.
At LIRNEasia we study and teach about regulation. In March-April we spent some effort seeking to contribute to what we saw as an effort to remedy some long-standing political failures through transparent, consultative processes set in motion by Sri Lanka’s Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL). Our recommendations were not accepted, but we still hope the remedy will itself survive political failure. In the aftermath of the protests and the President’s overruling of the PUCSL, several observers have suggested that the PUCSL is a redundant entity that should be wound up. I agree that it failed in this instance and that it has done grievous harm to itself and to the essential process of moving toward cost-reflective tariffs.
I recall a Sinhala poem from my time at Peradeniya University. It asked who had actually built Sigiriya and the great irrigation works: The kings who routinely get the credit or the unnamed many who did the actual building? The telecom reforms in Sri Lanka are now seen as an unqualified success. The reforms did not just happen. Courageous decision making was needed.
Today, the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka, held the oral-presentation component of the 2013 tariff hearing. In their effort to accommodate 70 or so persons/organizations among the 200+ that had made written submissions, they limited speaking time to 5-10 mts depending on how many issues had been covered and did not ask any questions of those making presentations. This was a pity, since the whole point of face-to-face interaction is interactivity. That said, I still found the exercise educative. For example, the spokesperson for one organization asked why the PUCSL had allowed a component of costs for ROE, return on equity.
LIRNEasia’s current cycle of research focuses on how mobile platforms can help improve customer relationship management in utilities. I have been contributing to the current debate on rationalizing the electricity tariffs in Sri Lanka based on the work Partha Mukhopadhyay and I did in relation to the recently concluded SAFIR core course and laying the foundation for disseminating the results of the research project when completed. Many of my interventions have been over electronic media, but here is a summary piece in LBO that is also being published in Sinhala in Ravaya next week. Tariff design must contribute to bring down peak demand by around five percent. This is a policy objective pursued in many countries, especially in light of climate-change concerns.
As part of the “Inclusion in the Information Society” project commenced September last year we have been studying how electricity utilities can use the almost universal mobile devices to improve the services provided to consumers. The research is ongoing, but we have not let that stop us from making use of the policy windows that open up. Early this week, the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka announced that it would be accepting comments on a proposed tariff increase from the public. Based on our research, we plan to make submissions. Even before that, when a leading economic analysis program aired by Sirasa TV, asked us to speak on the subject, we gave a taste of what would be coming.
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.
I have given versions of this lecture in many forms at SAFIR over the years. The difference this time was that it was the foundation for a series of units based on the research on customer-relations management conducted across Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka by LIRNEasia and presented by Helani Galpaya and Rajkiran Bilolikar. Their slidesets will be put up shortly. Mine are here.
Today I delivered the keynote at well attended workshop on how the Telecom Sector could contribute to Digital Bangladesh. It was organized by the Bangladesh Enterprise Institute. Attendees included the Ministers of Post and Telecom, ICT and Information. The Chair of BTRC and the Secretary of the Ministry of ICT, a key actor in Bangladesh’s e gov activities, spoke. The government envisions a Digital Bangladesh that makes the full potential of the Internet available to its people, but appears unclear about how they will be connected.
Now it’s official. ITU’s Secretary-General, Hamadoun I. Touré, explicitly supports the governments’ plan to hijack the Internet. His article titled “U.N.
Sitting at a session in TPRC40 listening to LIRNEasia Research Fellow Faheem Hussain presenting his paper. Impressed that this kind of study, analyzing an issue that is not of great relevance to US telecom policy scholars, is accommodated at TPRC. The challenge, of course, is to pull back from the temptation to give too much detail on the exotica of a particular developing country and to present the abstract high level findings that may be of interest to a broader audience.

Adventures in behavioral economics

Posted on August 4, 2012  /  0 Comments

Universal acclaim rarely comes to a theorist who tries to implement his ideas. As administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, he reviewed the rules implementing President Obama’s health care act and the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory reform law. He backed major environmental initiatives, including higher fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks and new toxic emissions rules for power plants. He approved the revamping of the decades-old food pyramid (it is now a “plate”), the tightening of salmonella rules for eggs and a crackdown on prison rape. He midwifed a deal between appliance manufacturers and the Department of Energy to make refrigerators more energy efficient.
Among the PiRRC contributions to the Pacific Broadband Forum just concluded in Nadi, Fiji, was a panel discussion on regulatory independence. In addition to the practicing regulators of Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Vanuatu, they invited some observers to participate. Preparing for the panel, I looked through some old slidesets and came up with this structure. Did not use the slidesets, but the structure was useful. What surprised me was how easily I switched from the role of disinterested scholar to former regulator.