Today I attended the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the UN Office for Partnerships sponsored event, Turning Inspiration into Action: Next Steps for the Private Sector to Empower Women Globally. This annual forum — now in its fourth year — brought together over 100 leaders from nonprofit, government, multilateral, and the private sector committed to the economic empowerment of women worldwide.
Given that many nations are still struggling with sluggish or no economic growth, it is timely for countries around the world to develop sustainable, inclusive economies to maximize their growth potential. And the key ingredient for achieving this is integrating women into the equation. As Carolyn Buck Luce from Imaginal Labs LLC highlighted in the opening remarks at the event, “the next emerging market is women. Over one billion women globally will enter the workforce in the next five years, and they will mostly come from developing nations.”
To capitalize on this immense opportunity, here were some actionable plans that were discussed by the panelists at the forum:
Armed security at a Walmart store in Costa Rica, (Photo: La Nacion)
Security is a fact of life that many of us in the developed world take for granted. I feel fairly confident that I can go about my life on a daily basis with nearly zero contact with crime or violence. Thanks to that security, I feel confident enough to shop, go out to eat, and generally spend time outside of my home and workplace, adding to the local economy. Thanks to this security, my city is growing and developing and life is generally getting better for most people, despite the recent economic recession. Imagine if that were not the case.
At the second level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs lies safety – the security of body, employment, resources, morality, family, health and property. Intuitively we know that our basic needs must be met before we can endeavor to improve our self, our livelihood, our families, or our communities. Without the feeling of safety, people are less able to act freely in a market – to buy products, start businesses, or invest – limiting a country’s potential for development.
It is with this logic that a recent United Nations Human Development Report argues in favor of increasing measures in citizen security in the Latin America region. In this region more than 100,000 homicides are registered per year. The World Health Organization considers these levels epidemic and they are much higher than most other regions of the world today. The report’s authors state, “The level of insecurity many experience impedes human development.”
CIPE partner the Iraqi Businessmen Union leads a public-private dialogue session in Baghdad, Iraq.
The Iraqi private sector continues to pursue steps towards building a modern market economy. Over recent decades, Iraq’s institutions supporting the economy became highly centralized as authoritarian rule sought to enhance state economic and political control. In Iraq today, government officials and the business community recognize the need to transform the economy into a modern, market-economy, capable of providing jobs and opportunity to all citizens. Achieving this goal, however, has proven to be a slow and arduous process.
Since 2003 CIPE has supported the Iraqi business community in its efforts to participate more effectively in the country’s economic transition. CIPE has partnered with business associations and civil society to develop provincial and regional business agendas and draft policy papers that increase the information available on issues inhibiting private sector growth.
To supplement the efforts of CIPE’s local partners, CIPE commissioned surveys to measure the views of Iraqi businesses, most of which are small sole-proprietorships, towards the prevailing economic conditions, factors affecting business growth, and a host of other key policy and economic issues.
In this week’s Economic Reform Feature Service Article, Program Officer Jenna Mace presents key results from CIPE’s most recent Iraqi Business Survey. The article includes a discussion of trends in the costs of corruption and opportunities for women, as well as the business community’s views of economic conditions.
Read the entire article here.
John Zanikos is Assistant Program Officer for the Middle East & North Africa at CIPE.
Corruption is one of the biggest challenges facing the developing world: it has a corrosive effect on democratic governance, undermines public trust, and wastes scarce resources. Crucially, corruption also represents a destructive tax on the private sector that hampers economic growth and development prospects.
A new paper by the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ (CSIS) Project on Prosperity and Development, The Costs of Corruption: Strategies for Ending a Tax on Private-sector Growth, estimates that narrowly-defined private sector corruption in 105 developing countries amounts to over $500 billion, 3.7 times the amount of official development assistance in 2011. While businesses are often blamed for corruption, and in particular bribery, the paper recognizes that corruption has both supply and demand sides, and that while businesses may contribute to corruption, they are also victims of it. As such, business must be a part of successful solutions to the corruption problem.
This is the point that CIPE constantly emphasizes – and applies – in its work around the world. In fact, the report cites numerous examples of CIPE’s successful anti-corruption programs, including collective action among leading companies in Thailand, legal reforms to guarantee disclosure of procurement contracts in Egypt, work on corporate governance and SME policy advocacy in Russia, improving public procurement transparency and governance in Kosovo, streamlining Armenia’s tax code, and strengthening property rights and supporting legal institutions in Kenya.
By Aurelio Concheso
December’s local election results are in for Venezuela, and the opposition can rightly claim that it not only retained major urban areas such as Greater Caracas, Maracaibo and Merida, but regained others it had lost such as Valencia, Barquisimeto, and San Cristobal. In addition they made inroads in “Chavista cities” such as Chavez´s own home town of Barinas and Diosdado Cabello’s home town of Maturin. Moreover, despite how the Electoral College blatantly manipulated the way results were broadcast, in the overall national vote tally the opposition candidates beat out the government’s by 51 to 49 percent.
On the minus side for the opposition, former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles tried to bill the contest as a referendum on President Maduro, but this didn´t pan out either from the perspective of voter turnout (only about 58.5 percent vs. over 80 percent in the April presidential election) or the difference in total vote.
What we are left with moving forward is a political environment that continues to be polarized. During the two months previous to the election, the government made private business the culprit for inflation and scarcities of goods, while simultaneously taking steps that practically insure higher inflation, perhaps hyperinflation in 2014.
Thanks to its Special Economic Zone status, many foreign companies assemble cars and electronics in the Kaliningrad region for the broader Russian market. But corruption remains a major barrier.
At public events on corruption, no matter how sophisticated the participants and no matter how narrow the subject, the discussion invariably seems to wander off topic. Often the audience members want to speak about a high-profile case like the suburban Washington, DC, politician’s wife who stuffed $79,000 into her undergarments when federal agents came knocking. Sometimes, speakers wander off into digressions on how one nation or another is inherently corrupt because of cultural and historical factors. Frequently, attendees simply conflate different kinds of corruption – petty, political, commercial – into in insoluble morass.
This was the case at a recent CIPE-supported event held in November in Kazan, Russia. One of the 70 participants began to derail a technical discussion of Russian legislation with a series of questions about recent arrests of regional political leaders on bribery charges. Some of the audience perked up. Others looked uncomfortable, not expecting this at a conference on how to boost investment by improving firm-level compliance with anti-corruption laws.
Igor Belikov, the event’s moderator and head of the Russian Institute of Directors, deftly reined in the discussion and with a bit of humor brought it back to the subject at hand – how mid-sized firms can reap the benefits of globalization by putting in place anti-corruption compliance programs that give the firms better access to multi-national companies’ global value chains.
Trying to explain the connection between democracy and market-driven growth can be like trying to solve the puzzle of the chicken and the egg: which came first? Our panelists in the free enterprise and democracy webinar on September 12 did a commendable job of sorting through the linkages and debunking several myths.
One of the starting premises for discussion was that economic growth flourishes when private property rights are protected in a market-oriented system under rule of law. While autocrats can provide a level of protection for property and a legal order, without democratization there cannot be universal protection of property rights, as Boris Begovic, Senior Fellow at the Center for Liberal Democratic Studies, pointed out. In the long run, democracy brings greater certainty to the rule of law. Businesses require certainty for long-term investment, and this is lessened when the whim of an autocratic ruler prevails.
Aurelio Concheso, Director of Aspen Consulting, further stated that autocratic decisionmaking discourages innovation. As an economy becomes increasingly complex, feedback becomes essential to the decision process and feedback is facilitated by democratic governance. By contrast, oligarchic societies raise huge barriers to entry and innovation in order to protect incumbent political and business elites.
Selima Ahmad, Founder and President of the Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and John D. Sullivan, Executive Director at CIPE, spoke about how the private sector can act to level the playing field, for example by advocating universal property rights as guaranteed in the UN Declaration on Human Rights. Businesses ranging from small and medium enterprises to those engaged in international commerce have an interest in regulatory reform, which they can pursue collectively through voluntary associations and policy agendas.