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.
Advocacy is an interesting concept. When you first talk to business organizations about it you undoubtedly hear: “of course we do it, there is nothing to it.” When you unpack the definition of advocacy and explain to people that it is much more than picking up the phone and calling your contact in a government office to resolve an issue, you get a different reaction: “its too complex, how can we do it?”
We usually describe advocacy in two ways – what it is and what it is not. Advocacy is about changing public policies or public opinion. It is not about obtaining preferential treatment for one company or solving problems concerning day-to-day business activities of an individual member of a business association.
One of the best advocacy strategies is to brand your advocacy campaign in a way that people associate with it, remember it, and understand it. I was reminded of this as I was giving an example of the successful advocacy campaign in Montenegro to lower a series of corporate and employer taxes. Montenegro Business Alliance put up billboards all over the city with a simple message (10% tax), including right in front of the Parliament building, so that when legislators came into work and left at the end of the day, they saw the same message over and over again:
Makes it kind of difficult to resist the reform when you have this billboard in your face all the time. Do you know of any other examples of effective advocacy campaign branding?
As CIPE celebrates its 25 years this year, I look back at my time as CIPE Project Manager in Montenegro from November 2001 to February 2006. One of the most successful projects I had the opportunity to work on was the creation of the Montenegro Business Alliance (MBA). It was established in 2001 as the first private, voluntary business umbrella organization with membership open to entrepreneurs, companies, and business associations. MBA had just ten founding members at its very first organizational assembly meeting in September 2001; by 2006, it gained 450 dues-paying members that represented 15,000 employees and created 1,800 jobs.
This rapid growth was a clear indicator that MBA became Montenegro’s most powerful independent voice for advocating business and market reforms. It managed to accomplish that by working on the issues of high relevance to the business community. MBA organized numerous business forums and seminars on topics such as Company Organization Law or Accounting Law and educated companies on the importance of ethical conduct. MBA’s efforts brought about visible business benefits to its members.
In recognizing Global Entrepreneurship Week, I’d like to recall one of CIPE’s more comprehensive and successful programs to address private sector development.
During the late 90’s Montenegro was an isolated corner of the Balkans, cut off from outside investment due to long-standing sanctions against the Milosevic regime, and reliant on smuggling to fuel it’s economy. Montenegro’s private sector was small and limited to a few service-oriented companies in the capital city and resort towns which dotted its coast. The country was saddled with a plethora of communist-era laws which discouraged enterprise formation, and promoted informal economic activity. There were no shortage of entrepreneurs in this small country, but due to government roadblocks and lack of support services they weren’t making it to the market.
Recognizing the need to help entrepreneurs enter the economy, Montenegro’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (CEED) teamed with CIPE on a long-term project to develop a strong entrepreneurial sector. Working with USAID support, CEED and CIPE developed a multi-pronged strategy that sought to create sustainable institutions that would provide services directly to entrepreneurs while constructively engaging policy-makers on needed reforms. Courses were held around the country providing would-be entrepreneurs with the “ABC’s” of starting a business, business majors at University were engaged to help others develop business plans for financing, and consulting services were developed to assist entrepreneurs further develop their businesses.
On the policy side, CEED/CIPE developed a series of surveys and studies that helped identify the main barriers faced by entrepreneurs, including a business registration process which required a $2,500 deposit, and several months worth of bureaucratic drudgery. CEED successfully pushed the government to enact a new business registration law which virtually eliminated registration fees, and dramatically simplified and shortened the registration process. As a result the number of registered businesses in Montenegro quadrupled virtually overnight.