A national business agenda (NBA) is a powerful tool and platform for business people to engage in a proactive dialogue with policy-makers on issues affecting the private sector in a given country. Developing an NBA requires the private sector to collaborate to identify issues that constrain business activity, offer proposals and solutions to address the issues, and present them in an open and transparent manner to public officials. This private-sector led approach has been instrumental in advancing economic reform agendas in countries around the world.
When the public and private sectors work together to implement necessary economic reforms, entrepreneurs, businesses and citizens benefit from a more prosperous and vibrant democracy. Businesses possess the know-how and detailed knowledge of economic conditions, obstacles, and opportunities for growth, while governments have the means to pass business-friendly legislation. Public-private dialogue helps these two groups work together to arrive at effective policy solution.
Moldova’s National Business Agenda Network (NBA), comprised of more than 30 business associations and chambers of commerce from across the country, positioned itself as a key stakeholder in policymaking. With CIPE’s support, the Institute for Development and Social Initiatives (IDSI) institutionalized a culture of public-private dialogue where it did not exist before and encouraged greater transparency and inclusiveness in setting reform priorities in the areas of tax and customs law.
Find out how the Moldovan business community successfully built an advocacy coalition to work with the government on reform priorities in the recently-released case study “Public-Private Dialogue in Moldova”, part of a forthcoming case collection Strategies for Policy Reform.
Teodora Mihaylova is a Research Assistant at CIPE.
The private sector is a key actor in efforts to promote economic growth, reform the business climate and strengthen democratic policymaking worldwide. Dialogue is a key part of the Busan process, which recognizes that the for-profit private sector is a central driver of development and emphasizes the importance of inclusive dialogue for building a policy environment conducive to sustainable development.” Businesses possess the know-how of economic conditions, obstacles and opportunities for growth, while governments have the means to pass business-friendly legislation.
From a democratic point of view, a vibrant private contribution to dialogue expands participation in policymaking by creating space for civic engagement in governance, improves the quality of business representation and supplements the performance of democratic institutions.
Building upon its longstanding experience in the field, CIPE has been invited to participate in the 7th Annual Public Private Dialogue Global Workshop organized by the World Bank, BMZ-The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, and GIZ in Frankfurt, Germany.
Senior Knowledge Manager Kim Bettcher will moderate a session on long term public private dialogue sustainability and the role of chambers of commerce and business associations. Director of Multiregional Programs Anna Nadgrodkiewicz will make a presentation on a new initiative between the CIPE, the World Bank Institute, and development partners on building an open and collaborative platform for public private dialogue resources.
CIPE has extensive experience in advancing policy dialogue around the world and supports market-oriented reform and private sector development by mobilizing representative business associations and strengthening their capacity to advocate for policy solutions. CIPE also invests in business association development that enables effective dialogue. Some regional success stories in public private dialogue are outlined in more detail below.
A public-private dialogue session with President Macky Sall in Senegal. CIPE partners organize such sessions in countries around the world.
In a webinar on July 11, Elias M. Dewah, former Executive Director of the Botswana Confederation of Commerce, Industry, and Manpower (BOCCIM), and other panelists shared prominent lessons from their experience with public-private dialogue initiatives in Africa and Eastern Europe and the Caucasus. Here are some of the highlights, addressed to private sector participants in advocacy.
- Be consistent and persistent in advocacy and dialogue to overcome government inertia.
- Remain independent from government but work with officials in an advocacy capacity.
- Be proactive and constructive. Don’t just criticize but offer alternative policy solutions.
- Come to the table with well-researched evidence. Link up with independent think tanks as needed.
- Be representative and inclusive of various sectors, not just a few elite businesses.
- Speak with one voice at all times.
- Move from issues involving transactions to systemic change.
- Make use of existing legal frameworks that provide for transparency and consultation.
- Find the most effective point of engagement in the legislative process – this could be in the drafting stage.
- Evaluate the impact. Look beyond dialogue processes at what is actually achieved.
On June 11 the World Bankreleased a report titled, “Moldova: Policy Priorities for Private Sector Development.” The report highlights business constraints and proposals for reform in five key areas: customs administration, tax administration, business regulation (licenses, authorizations, permits, and inspections), competition framework, and access to finance. These priorities are in line with the National Business Agenda (NBA) prepared by CIPE partners in Moldova. In fact, the World Bank report makes multiple references to the 2012-2013 NBA document, citing it as “reflecting the views of a broad range of private sector stakeholders.”
The NBA is not only a document. To prepare it, a network of over 30 business associations and chambers of commerce from across Moldova go through a well-structured process that includes building broad consensus on priorities, analyzing the legal framework for each issue, and developing joint proposals for reform. Using this methodology, the chambers and associations utilize the NBA framework to prepare for a constructive dialogue with government. CIPE has partnered with leading Moldovan think tank Institute for Development and Social Initiative (IDSI) to build the capacity of NBA members to jointly articulate not only the key barriers businesses face, but also concrete proposals to overcome them.
In addition, CIPE and IDSI have been providing assistance to the NBA member organizations to create a private sector platform. Today this platform is well-known among policymakers, the broader business community, and civil society as the NBA network. The member organizations are committed to developing a partnership with government through public-private dialogue. The goal is to work together on improving the economy, creating more jobs, and improving the climate for doing business. The voice of the NBA network is especially important in the reform process as it represents the views of the small and medium-sized domestic enterprises that comprise a majority of the Moldovan private companies.
Participants at a roundtable on the National Business Agenda Monitoring Report, held on December 4th, 2012 in Chișinău, Moldova.
In a distant corner of Eastern Europe, Moldova’s economy is struggling amidst Europe’s recent recession. The economy grew at a rate of just 0.5% in 2012 and The Economist predicts that the economy will grow at an annualized rate of 3.3% between 2013 and 2017.
Such a growth rate is not sufficient to lift Europe’s poorest country, in terms of price-adjusted GDP per capita, out of poverty. The government’s regulatory policies are oriented towards attracting foreign investment and appeasing European donors instead of promoting local business development and capacity building.
Although for this reason Moldova has shot up the World Bank’s “Doing Business” rankings, the business community complains that the business environment is worsening. Moldova’s business community needs tax and customs reforms for the country to prosper. The fragmentation of the business community has stymied previous appeals to the government, which has accused the business community of incompetence.
CIPE and its Moldovan partner, the Institute for Development and Social Initiatives, a leading think tank, are striving to foster public-private dialogue to improve the business environment by strengthening the institutions of the Moldovan business community. Through the National Business Agenda mechanism, business associations from around Moldova have formed a national coalition to advocate for vital reforms to the tax code and customs regulations. One crucial reform they are advocating for is establishing the presumption of innocence in tax disputes — which could have important effects on the ability of Moldovan businesses to grow and prosper.
Dr. Veaceslav Ionita, Head of Moldova's Parliamentary Committee on Economy, Budget and Finance (Photo: CIPE)
In April 2009, flawed elections in Moldova triggered the so-called “Twitter revolution,” a wave of youth-driven public protests. The people who took to the streets were outraged not only by the manipulated results of the election but also by Moldova’s ineffective economic transition nearly two decades after the fall of the Soviet Union and the country’s independence. The protests led to an early parliamentary election after which four parties formed a reform-oriented coalition, The Alliance for European Integration (AEI).
With the new leadership came a new way of engaging the public in the policymaking process. The coalition’s priority has been to improve the quality of regulations and to reduce bureaucratic inefficiencies. In order to do that, the government actively engaged with different civil society groups, including private sector organizations. Earlier this year, for instance, more than 30 business associations and chambers of commerce from across Moldova presented to the government their priorities for reform outlined in a National Business Agenda for 2012-2013. The conference was attended by various officials, including the Head of the Parliamentary Committee on Economy, Budget and Finance, Dr. Veaceslav Ionita.
In this CIPE Feature Service article, he talks about Moldova’s path to reforms and the importance of transparent public-private dialogue to democratic development. He notes that “Democracy is not only words; democracy is an instrument that fosters public pressure on different government agencies to perform in a transparent and accountable way. Democratic institutions can thus ensure the basis for economic development and increase security for investors.”
Article at a Glance
- Strengthening democratic institutions in transition countries is crucial not only for their democratic development but also economic success.
- Public debate on economic and regulatory issues encourages transparency and weakens systemic corruption.
- By transparently involving broad-based private sector in the policymaking process Moldova is on a path to building a new, competitive economy.
You can read the full article here: http://www.cipe.org/publications/fs/pdf/123011.pdf