Author Archives: CIPE Staff

South Asian Women’s Chambers and Associations Learn Effective Advocacy Techniques

women-training-kathmandu

By Hammad Siddiqui and Marc Schleifer

For the past two years, CIPE has been working to build the capacity of women’s chambers and businesses associations from across South Asia. Last month, they took the next step into policy advocacy.

Through a series of workshops in Dhaka, Kathmandu, Lahore and Colombo, CIPE has fostered relationships among a group of organizations from Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bhutan. The workshops have focused on topics such as strategic planning, membership development, board governance, staff empowerment, financial sustainability and communications strategies.

This June, CIPE organized the fifth in its series of networking and training sessions, again in Kathmandu. Following CIPE’s general approach, it is first important to strengthen the organizations themselves so that they can then be more successful in working on policy reform. Thus after four sessions of capacity-building for these chambers and associations, encouraging them to focus on serving the needs of their membership, this three-day session focused intensively on policy advocacy.

The CIPE team, led by Senior Consultant Camelia Bulat, with input from Pakistan Office Deputy Director Hammad Siddiqui, Director for Multiregional Programs Anna Nadgrodkiewicz, and Regional Director for Eurasia and South Asia Marc Schleifer, presented a range of tools and approaches to help the 19 participants think strategically about advocacy.

Read More…

Why Free Enterprise Matters for Democracy in Venezuela

By Gustavo Guerrero and Laura Boyette

The economic and political climate in Venezuela today has grown to crisis levels as the government consolidates power and limits the freedoms of entrepreneurs and the private sector through harmful legislation and the nationalization of private businesses. In the face of these challenges, the Federation of Chambers and Associations of Commerce and Production (FEDECAMARAS) continues working hard to advocate for policies that will grow the Venezuelan economy and provide more opportunities to young entrepreneurs, both of which are essential to creating a brighter future for Venezuela. In May Jorge Roig, President of FEDECAMARAS, sat down for an interview with CIPE and discussed the role of the private sector and its advocates in Venezuela.

Roig stressed the importance of cooperation between business, society, and government, saying that without engaging these groups in dialogue, substantive change will not occur. In recent years, the Chávez and Maduro governments have depicted the private sector and organizations such as FEDECAMARAS as the source of Venezuela’s economic problems, claiming they have political aspirations. However, Roig defined the role of FEDECAMARAS very clearly – not to be a political power, but rather to influence it on behalf of entrepreneurs. Furthermore, organizations such as FEDECAMARAS not only protect free enterprise, but also support democratic values and act in the best interests of the society as a whole.

Read More…

Redefining the Role of the Business Community in Pakistan

pakistan shadow budget

“To realize sheer benefits of the GSP Plus status the government should take rationalized steps to minimize the cost of doing business as lack of resources and huge export of raw material is indicating further increase in cost of doing business in the future” – Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Suhail Bin Rashid.

Historically, business associations were heavily politicized in Pakistan, preventing them from becoming a unified voice for economic reforms in the country. Recently, the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce & Industry, an apex body of business associations in Pakistan, unveiled its first-ever “shadow budget,” consisting of suggestions related to Pakistan’s 2014-15 Federal Budget. This is a major turnaround.

After six years of support from CIPE Pakistan’s multifaceted capacity building efforts, business associations are now becoming a strong national voice for economic revival plans and mapping government accountability. This was a long process, started in 2009 when CIPE partner Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry organized its first All-Pakistan Chamber Presidents’ Conference.

Initially, the response was weak, but as the effort continued, business associations realized its importance. Since then, the annual conference has become an important venue for bringing the business community from across Pakistan together to discuss pressing economic issues and propose reforms to provide level playing field for businesses to grow. At the 6th Presidents’ Conference, participants not only discussed key areas for the revival of economy but made their thinking more public.

As the Federal Budget 2014-15 is in its preparation phase, for the first time, business leaders decided to collectively present their own budget proposals to the government. While taking the lead, Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry arranged the first ever All Pakistan Chamber Presidents Pre-Budget Conference in first week of February 2014 to come up with suggestions regarding the federal budget.

In April 2014, Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry invited all Chamber Presidents to a second All-Pakistan Pre-Budget conference where the Chairman of the Federal Board of Revenue, Tariq Bajwa, participated at the conference and listened the issues of business community.

CIPE engaged business associations and motivated them to speak on issues of economic importance and role of private sector in economic policy reforms. As a result, now all Chambers are able to turn the tables by raising their voice unanimously to issue specific policy proposals.

There is still a long way to go, but CIPE`s efforts of bringing business community together as part of a single platform has started paying dividends.

Hammad Siddiqui is Deputy Country Director for CIPE Pakistan. Muhammad Talib Uz Zaman is a Program Officer for CIPE Pakistan.

The Way Forward in Afghanistan: Looking Beyond 2014

pajcciBy Huzaifa Shabbir Hussain and Hammad Siddiqui

As neighbors, Pakistan and Afghanistan have a number of commonalities. Both are predominantly Muslim countries and share similar values, culture, and civilization — as well as a long history of trade through both formal and informal channels. The signing of a new transit trade agreement between Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2010 has been termed as a major diplomatic accomplishment for both countries given the current geo-political environment. However, problems persist, especially in terms ensuring stability and growth in cross border trade and investment.

To help deal with these challenges, members of the business community from both countries formed the Pakistan and Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce & Industry in February 2012, with support from the British High Commission (BHC) and CIPE.

The core objective of the chamber is to facilitate peace prospects and strengthen economic and trade ties between the two countries. Since its establishment, PAJCCI has been aggressively pursuing its goal to ensure linkages between the business communities on both sides of the border.

The exchange of delegations, B2B and matchmaking sessions, circulation of trade and business opportunities, and annual  conference have become vital avenues for enhancing bilateral ties between the two countries. The platform has also provided an opportunity to raise the voice of business community on both  sides of the border, encouraging government officials to make changes that enhance cross-border trade and investment.

Read More…

Legal and Regulatory Barriers to Women’s Participation in the Labor Force

Women entrepreneurs at a networking even in New Delhi. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Women entrepreneurs at a networking even in New Delhi. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

By Laura Boyette and Teodora Mihaylova 

Including women in the economy is not just the right thing to do, but also the smart thing for a country’s economic growth. Women’s participation in the workforce is potentially a major source of global economic growth and job creation, and yet a recently released World Bank report finds that nearly 90 percent of 143 countries studied contain at “least one legal difference restricting women’s economic opportunities.”

Women make up half of the world’s population, yet face many more cultural, legal, familial, religious, and economic barriers than men to entering the market. These impediments limit women’s ability to provide for themselves and their families, depriving them of the essential human right of autonomy in their decisions, economic opportunities, and the ability to petition the government or have access to institutions. These barriers also deprive countries of significant GDP growth and stand in the way of attaining full development goals. Previous CIPE blogs have discussed the merits of closing the economic participation gender gap, how gender equity is an integral part of the post-2015 development agenda, and the fact that women are natural entrepreneurs but lack resources to develop skills.

The Women, Business and the Law report, recently introduced at the Brookings Institution, examines the legal and regulatory barriers to women’s participation in the workforce through seven indicators: gaining access to institutions, using property, getting a job, providing incentives to work, building credit, going to court, and protecting women from violence.

Read More…

CIPE Pakistan Helps Tell Entrepreneurs’ Stories for Global Entrepreneurship Week

gewpk (3)

CIPE Pakistan joined the global community in celebrating the Global Entrepreneurship Week. This year, CIPE’s Pakistan office invited 70 Universities and 140 Chambers and Associations to celebrate GEW. In addition to a number of activities during the week, CIPE Pakistan engaged entrepreneurs and bloggers in Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad to share untold entrepreneurial stories online. As a result of this initiative, 43 untold entrepreneurial stories were published.

Read More…

Afghanistan Launches New Business Caucus in Parliament

The inaugural meeting of Afghanistan’s Parliamentary Business Caucus

The inaugural meeting of Afghanistan’s Parliamentary Business Caucus

By CIPE Kabul Staff

Entrepreneurs and businesspeople in Afghanistan face one of the most difficult business environments in the world, so close cooperation between the private sector and government is essential to putting the country’s economy back on track.

On November 16, CIPE capped off more than two years of work by organizing the inaugural meeting of Afghanistan’s Parliamentary Business Caucus, which brings together business-friendly members of parliament (MPs) and representatives of the private sector. This new body will provide a platform to discuss issues of concern to the business community and ways in which the private sector and MPs can work together to make sure that Afghanistan passes key legislation to spur private sector development.

The first meeting brought together 18 MPs, including leading parliamentarians and members of relevant committees, with eight representatives of leading business associations: FACT (the Federation of Afghanistan Craftsmen and Traders), the Afghan Builders’ Association, the Industrialists’ Association, the Fruit Exporters’ Association, the Carpet Exporters’ Guild, the Afghan Chamber, and the Peace Through Business Network – a new women’s association.

“The promotion of the private sector is critical for creating employment opportunities, economic growth and the development of Afghanistan,” said Andrew Wilson, CIPE Deputy Director for Strategic Planning. Wilson affirmed CIPE’s support for, and cooperation with, the Business Caucus. CIPE Kabul staff – Mohammad Nasib, Mohammad Naim, and Ibrahim Hassan – served as moderators, discussing the CIPE-supported National Business Agenda (NBA) and the effort to create the Caucus.

Read More…