Step 3: Identify allies in government

Public sectors are rarely homogenous in their willingness or capacity to engage in dialogue. There will often be wide differences between different levels of authority, agencies, departments, and regions.

Tensions (turf fights) between various government departments are likely to occur as well. The EO can use these dynamics to its advantage, but needs to bear in mind that relationships with all ministries need to be maintained over time. The following two examples demonstrate the multiplicity of interests across government.

Example

The ministry of finance may want to increase taxes on foreign trade to generate revenue. It may be supported by government departments that confront lobbying for protection by declining industries but that are resisted by the ministry of economic planning which may seek to use liberalization and tariff exemptions as an instrument of investment and export promotion. The ministry of labour may favour trade barriers to safeguard employment in uncompetitive industries, while the ministry of foreign affairs may favour more open policies as part of a foreign policy strategy.

The EO's approach should therefore be conceived in the context of the political game within the government. If the game is played well the EO could have a decisive role to play in the fight between different government bodies.(1)

Example

A significant constraint on economic growth identified by the EO is a lack of understanding of new food and qualitative standards. These were introduced in new legislation the previous year in an effort to tackle a series of high profile cases of contaminated food.

One year on and no discernable difference can be seen, the legislation has had the unintended effect of freezing out small suppliers; information on the new legislation is difficult to understand and find. Authorities that were supposed to help the business community with the new legislation have taken an unhelpful approach. The legislation is failing.

Having identified change as necessary, the EO now will need to target several agencies such as the Department of Health where the initial legislation emanated from and the Food Safety Authority which is the implementing agency.

These will be the primary points of engagement but considering the approach they have taken so far it will not be enough. The Enterprise Development Department which has responsibility for SME development in the country – a priority under the national development plan – will need to be targeted as a voice for change within government.

The EO's strategy then is to identify a champion for change in a rival ministry on an issue that is a national policy priority.

The fact that a government has multiple interests and different Ministries, with different and occasionally competing views, also creates difficulties for the EO in its relationships.

The most common cause of governance failure is the lack of coordination across multiple legal and bureaucratic jurisdictions, which leads to excessive and overlapping demands on businesses. Outdated regulations and inefficient regulatory techniques continue because there is no accountability for their performance, and no review and updating process in place.

2.2 Maintain and build relationships across departments

The most important officials are the key decision-makers within the main Ministries the EO interfaces with. These individuals need to be cultivated and contacts continually maintained. But the EO also needs to identify the lower level officials who actually draft the policy recommendations.

Both these types of officials need to see in the EO an important resource for their work and its potential impact on the productive side of the economy.

2.3 Handling Ministerial Relations

Depending on the political situation Ministers can be all powerful and fully drive policy in their Ministry, while in others it can be the officials in the Ministries that drive the agenda – while in most democracies it is politicians who (largely) set the policy agenda.

It will depend on the EO's analysis of the role of the Ministry and its officials and the role and power of the Miinster in terms of its engagement processes.

There can be a mistaken view that once an issue is in the public domain the Minister is the point to influence. However, it is in many cases probably too late. The policy is already drafted! The Miister would have to 'back down'. The time for the meeting with the Minister would have been when the 'idea' was first floated and the ancillary lobbying of officials would have needed to take place at that stage.

So meeting the Minister is very important for an EO, but the key question is timing.

The other chief consideration is the means by which the EO meets the Minister. Is it formally through an EO delegation, or is it informally, perhaps through the EO President who is a personal friend of the Minister.

Both can work but both need to be part of the EO's strategy. If the President has a personal relationship with the Minister, the EO should use it – but it needs to be controlled and fit within the EO's overall strategic objectives. The EO also needs to consider which issue it wants the EO's President to spend his or her political capital on.

No matter which approach is taken – and no matter when in the policy cycle – the EO needs to be well prepared. Arguments need to be well thought through and should aim to offer the Minister 'solutions'. If possible, it will help to get civil servants 'on-side' before meeting the Minister.

STEP 3: ASSESSMENT SUMMARY 
Which ministry or institution is or would be responsible for initiating and then taking a lead role on the issue? Name of Ministry/Agency
What other Ministries/Agencies would be impacted? Name of Ministry/ Agency
If it there are multiple departments/agencies is there a cross-departmental steering group? Yes/No
Are there established mechanisms to facilitate communication between the different institutions involved? Yes/No
What existing relationships does the EO have with the lead department?
  • Seniority of contacts:
  • Are there examples of recent good collaboration with the EO?
Can sympathetic officials in other (not the lead, but affected) departments/agencies be mobilized to advance the EO perspectives? Yes/No
Does the EO have a long established relationship with the Office of the Minister, irrespective of the incumbent? Yes/No
Are there regular interfaces between EO Senior Management and the Minister at policy level? List occasions in last 12 months and issues raised
Are there regular opportunities for the Minister to hear directly from EO members at EO - Ministerial forums? List occasions in last 12 months and issues raised
Does the EO have a current office bearer who has a personal relationship with the current Minister? Yes/No
Has this relationship been utilized in the advocacy efforts so far? List issues and occasions for engagement
Is this envisaged? On which issue
In what format would such a contact happen – formal EO - Ministry; informal? Specify the reasons for this approach

 


(1) Example from Business advocacy and trade policy making, International Trade Centre, 2002.