The Washington Water Power Co. will help with privatization of the stateowned electric utility in Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet republic deep in Central Asia.
Representatives of the two utilities signed an agreement Wednesday under which WWP will lend technical and other assistance to the Kyrgyz Energy State Holding Co.
WWP has already sent two delegations to the Nebraska-sized nation. Three groups from Kyrgyzstan, including the one present Wednesday, have visited Spokane.
Talant Kasembekov, head of foreign relations for the utility, said through an interpreter that he was impressed by WWP’s billing and collections capabilities.
In his country, he said, electrical bills are a recent phenomenon to many consumers.
“The customers do not pay them and the government is not yet able to give them any assistance,” Kasembekov said.
The Kyrgyzstan utility also is owed substantial sums of money by neighboring republics that consume more than one-quarter of its electrical output, he said.
And, Kasembekov said, many domestic industries that were large consumers have been shut down because they are not economically viable in a privatized economy.
“That is why we look for new approaches,” he said.
Kasembekov said his utility is working toward reorganization as a shareholder-owned company with the government holding 51 percent of the stock, consumers about 25 percent and investors about 25 percent.
But first, he said, the country must adopt laws that will protect investors and establish ratemaking procedures.
WWP officials said they are impressed by Kyrgyzstan’s aggressive reform effort.
Vice President Jon Eliassen noted the country was the first former Soviet republic to abandon the ruble for its own currency.
Tom Dukich, WWP rates and tariffs manager, said the country’s president is the former head of the Soviet Union’s famed Academy of Sciences.
As a result, Kyrgyzstan is pushing educational as well as economic liberalization, he said. Flights to the capital - Bishkek - are loaded with Western businessmen who sense the potential opportunities, he added.
The WWP pact is the 14th arranged between utilities in the United States and those in the former Soviet Union under the Energy Industry Partnership Program.
Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, which has paid WWP’s expenses, the program helps give U.S. firms an edge among those interested in developing new resources, Deputy Manager John Dwyer said.
And, he said, WWP will have the chance to put its stamp on a new generation of corporate managers.