By Majid Shabbir
The advocacy process in Pakistan is strengthening as the leaders of the country’s Chambers of Commerce and Industry assembled for a series of Pre- and Post-Budget Conferences in Islamabad, Karachi, Faisalabad, and Rawalpindi to discuss the key business-related policy issues.
In these conferences business leaders of the Chambers thoroughly deliberate important issues and send consolidated policy recommendations to the government. Business associations individually make recommendations on various policies, but with a collective voice they are able to communicate more effectively. Their voice is better heard, and as a result more of their suggestions are incorporated while developing economic policies.
In the pre-budget conferences held by the Karachi and Faisalabad Chambers, the business leaders discussed in-depth trade and economic issues and presented detailed recommendations to the government for consideration. Before the announcement of the Federal Budget the government also involved Chambers and Associations in the consultative process by holding series of meetings with the leaders of these associations.
After the budget was released, the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce & Industry organized an All Chambers Presidents Post-Budget Conference with the theme of “Together for a Progressive Pakistan” on June 14 that was attended by all major Chambers including Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad, Sialkot, KPK, and Rawalpindi, as well as experts and high-level government officials.
More than 400 business leaders, including 30 women, met in in Karzai Hall in Jalalabad, Afghanistan on June 4 to discuss ways of improving the business environment Nangarhar Province. Organized by CIPE and led by the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry‘s Nangarhar chapter and a coalition of 12 local business associations, the participants discussed the barriers and challenges to doing business in the province and identified policy solutions to support business growth.
The event is part of a CIPE supported Provincial Business Agenda (PBA) program. The PBA is a grassroots effort to bring the local business community together to develop a list of policy priorities to improve the business climate in the province.
CIPE Pakistan has completed its 7th successful year. The 2013 Pakistan Activities Report details the progress of yet another instrumental year for policy reform driven by the private sector in the country.
Following are the highlights of the report:
The common thread that unites all of CIPE’s partners around the world is their dedication to the principles of democracy rooted in private enterprise and free market economics. In all other respects, their diversity is remarkable and represents one of CIPE’s greatest sources of strength.
Ranging from the smallest of local business associations and youth groups to large chambers of commerce and some of the world’s most respected think tanks, our partners all work hard to advance freedom and secure new opportunity for their fellow citizens. They also operate under circumstances as varied and complex as the global geo-political landscape itself. Some of our partners work in conflict environments that require a particular blend of courage and creativity in order to advance their democratic objectives.
The current catastrophe in Syria certainly presents unique challenges to CIPE’s partner the Syrian Economic Forum (SEF), an independent think tank formed in 2012 by business people from across Syria to inform the public policies that will be needed for the country to emerge from conflict and transition to democracy. It may sound starry-eyed to speak of peace and democracy with the war now in its fourth year, at a cost of more than 160,000 lives, over 2.8 million refugees, $143.8 billion in economic losses (as of the end of 2013), three-quarters of the population living in poverty, and incalculable social trauma.
However, SEF and the moderate business community it represents see no other alternative. Independent small and medium business people from across the country, representing the mosaic of religions and ethnicities for which Syria has long been renowned, are a unifying force with the potential to repair and rebuild a now shattered society.
Since 2005, CIPE has been working with the business community in Afghanistan to build their capacity to work with the government to improve the business environment in Afghanistan. CIPE has helped business associations identify the challenges and barriers to business, develop practical policy solutions, and effectively communicate the policies to government officials.
A major step for the business community was the launch of the CIPE-supported Afghanistan National Business Agenda (NBA) in 2011. The NBA is a grassroots program to build consensus among the business community of the most urgent policy priorities. The Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) led a coalition of 11 business associations in conducting public forums in five major cities with over 1,300 business people to gather input on improving the business environment. Based on the input from these forums, the coalition produced a report outlining the business community’s reform agenda.
Since the launch of the NBA in 2011, CIPE has supported the NBA coalition in advocating for the implementation of the policy reforms. The advocacy campaigns have been highly successful, increasing land and infrastructure for businesses, reducing and simplifying taxes and licenses, reducing corruption, and improving government services.
The 2014 Afghanistan presidential elections presented a great opportunity for a renewed efforts by the business community to advance their reform priorities. ACCI, in partnership with Harakat, organized a National Business Forum on February 27 to once again bring the business community together to unify behind a common agenda.
Through high-level discussions of democracy, development, and free trade, the 2014 Doha Forum held from May 12 to 14 sought to find solutions to key economic challenges facing the Middle East through international collaboration and entrepreneurship. Among those key challenges is job creation.
Co-hosted by Qatar and UCLA’s Center for Middle East Development, the theme of this year’s forum was “Enriching the Middle East’s Economic Future.” CIPE’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Abdulwahab Alkebsi and a group of CIPE’s partners participated in the forum.
With 30 percent of the Middle East’s population between the ages of 15 and 29, creating employment opportunities for young people remains a top economic priority for the region. CIPE and its partner organizations highlighted the many ways in which the private sector can address this challenge and enrich the Middle East’s economic future.
Since the revolution, CIPE partner IACE – the Institut arabe des chefs d’entreprises, or Arab Institute of Business Leaders – has reached out to citizens from all walks of life in Tunisia – young entrepreneurs, business leaders, students, policymakers and more – to debate and search for solutions to Tunisia’s persistent economic challenges. To involve even more people in the exchange of knowledge and ideas, IACE just launched a new newsletter to share updates on Tunisia’s economic progress and upcoming events.
Among other features, the newsletter includes a new op-ed, The Second Republic, or the Third Conflict Cycle? The piece makes the urgent and vital point that even with a new Constitution approved and focus on upcoming elections, it is the economy that still matters most.