Government officials and UNCTAD experts met in Asunción, Paraguay, on 1-2 September 2014 to assess the findings of a Services Policy Review of the country and to agree on a set of recommendations to be adopted by stakeholders and submitted to the government for action.
The Services Policy Review (SPR) of Paraguay examined the policy, regulatory and institutional weaknesses of four key services sectors - finance, education, telecommunication, and construction and related professional services - and made recommendations to address the deficiencies in these sectors.
Stakeholders attending the meeting in Asunción took stock of achievements by Paraguay regarding services-related policy reforms. Paraguay has national strategies and goals that acknowledge the critical importance of key services sectors to achieve development objectives and to improve competitiveness.
Other areas of strength in the case of Paraguay's services reforms include solid institutional frameworks in key services sectors such as telecommunications and financial services, as well as a services forum that enables key stakeholders to discuss services policies and regulation.
The Paraguay SPR study revealed the need for the country to:
Develop policies that build supply-side capacity to ensure access to quality services for domestic consumption
Enhance national coordination, particularly between the public and private sector, in the development and monitoring of services policies, as well as for the design of capacity building initiatives that respond better to market needs
Improve collection and analysis of services statistics
Strengthen services regulation and its enforcement, especially in connection with competition, consumer protection and quality standards
Specific actions recommended by the review included:
Introducing measures to promote formal business practices and improve access to financial services, such as using bank accounts for payment of salaries and rebates when making payments through credit cards
Entrusting regulatory oversight of financial cooperatives to an external institution to ensure independence
Improving the quality of higher education by introducing mandatory accreditation of university careers
Promoting harmonization of professional educational profiles among MERCOSUR member States to facilitate mutual recognition and promote trade in professional services
Further develop provisions on cybercrime, e-commerce and the use of digital signatures to cope with challenges related to internet governance and consumer protection
Introducing changes to the current system of billing by telecom services providers to improve control in the collection by the regulatory agency of funding for the Universal Services Fund.
Harmonizing standards for the construction sector at the national level and introducing an ethics code
Enhancing the civil responsibility obligations of services providers in the construction sector, with a view to (i) improve quality, (ii) facilitate enforcement and (iii) protect consumers
The objective of SPRs is to identify policy alternatives to promote the development of the services sector, with the view to maximize the contribution of this sector to economic welfare and development. Their outcomes can include, for example, recommendations (i) to improve coherence among services-related policies and (ii) to strengthen institutions and regulations related to services activities.
UNCTAD has undertaken ten SPRs since 2010. The SPR work has proved that policy analysis remains crucial in assisting countries to identify best policy options for leveraging the services sector for economic growth and social welfare.