Step 4: Assessing consultative channels

To effect policy change EOs need to have an avenue to government to present its issues. Structured and routine consultations will provide such an avenue.

The administrative cultures in the public sector will play a large factor in the EO's engagement. In most developing countries, there are weak traditions of openness and stakeholder participation in public policy. On the contrary, there are typically longstanding traditions of information monopolization and secrecy, together with hostile and suspicious relations between the public and the business sectors.

A culture of secrecy can prevent public institutions from interacting freely with EOs. Regulatory and policy-making can involve no public discussions, and a block on information for the media. This approach strengthens those opposed to reform because they can more easily control the process, information flow, and management.

EOs often have to overcome the immediate interests in favour of the status quo, but also to create innovative and unfamiliar approaches to public policy development that are, in themselves, seen as threatening to those in favour of the status quo .

Where they do not exist, establishing formal, institutionalized mechanisms that provide business with an opportunity to participate in policy-making in a more comprehensive and ongoing way, should be the EO's main objective.

But this is not without challenges. Lack of trust between the public and private sectors can be considerable. Within the public sector, many politicians and bureaucrats can be far more comfortable with a centralized form of government than with a participatory political system that would empower the private sector.(1)

For consultation to become routine national governments need to commit themselves to deepening their relationship with the EO over the medium to long-term. This involves moving beyond ad hoc consultations, to developing a full and meaningful partnership with the EO.

A common frustration expressed by EOs is a feeling that participation is often little more than a formality that does little to address their key concerns.

Success in the effective development of the consultative process seems to be the result of a combination of factors including the level of mutual trust between the two parties, the willingness of government to openly allow the EO to review and suggest improvements to its policies, and the feeling by the EO that its advice has been recognized in the policy formulation of government

4.1 Selling EO value to government

The main goal of advocacy is for EOs to become part of the policy-making process so that they can regularly shape policies, laws, and regulations of interest to them - if this is not already the case. This involves establishing good working relationships with target policy-makers (the targets may change from issue to issue) and their staff. EO staff should establish good relationships with public officials and should provide them with essential information that influences their perception of issues.

EOs can play a vitally important role in helping governments improve the investment climate and in the better design of policy reforms. As the key actors in the economy, enterprises, through their EO, can feed the vital 'raw data' to assist policy formulation.

Where this relationship between representative business and government exists it sends the positive signal to investors that the government listens to the constraints of the private sector, and is consequently more likely to devise sensible and workable policy choices. When governments and businesses are mutually distrustful and uncommunicative, investors lack confidence and make decisions based on that lack of confidence.

The best way an EO can develop robust consultative mechanisms with government is by convincing government it has something to offer. EOs need to bring something to the table – research, analysis, survey data, tested views, ideas, proposals – that government can see as helpful to it in its policy-making role.

WORLD BANK PUBLIC-PRIVATE DIALOGUES (PPD)(3)

The World bank has established PPD as a vehicle to engage the private sector in dialogue with the government. These are potential avenues for EOs. See the example of the role played by the Cambodian Employers (CAMFEBA) in a PPD:

http://www.publicprivatedialogue.com/workshop%202009/GMAC%20and%20Cambodia%20PPD.ppt

There are (as of June 2011) 33 World Bank supported PPDs, mostly in Asia and Africa, seven Presidential Investor Advisory Councils (PIACs) in Africa, and a newly established Convergence SPI Programs which operate in two countries. The economic impact of PPD activity has been impressive: at least $500 million in private sector savings, with PPDs also having achieved numerous other "soft" outputs in terms of building trust and goodwill among participants, often in very challenging environments. However, much of this impact has been concentrated in a small number of PPDs, with Vietnam and Cambodia alone responsible for at least 250 of the total number of 400 reforms (Albania, Uganda, Bangladesh, Lao, and Liberia are also good PPD performers). The Bank recognizes that the key engagement of "local private sector representative organizations", which can be very weak, is hugely important. 

PPD can also be supported by the establishment of Gender Working Groups for the purposes of applying a gender lens to all policy level work of the PPD and ensuring that women's voices are represented in the PPD process. There are several country illustrations where these PPD efforts have resulted in policy reforms to improve the investment climate for women in business and to provide their better access to information, financing, trade opportunities and services. Some of these examples are highlighted in “Gender and PPD”, a presentation made by the World Bank Group, 1-3 June 2010 (see: http://www.publicprivatedialogue.org/workshop%202010/).

The following set of questions can guide EOs in identifying key areas and departments within the public sector that can be favourable to their agenda.(4)

STEP 4: CONSULTATION ASSESSMENT

What are the attitudes of politicians towards the private sector?

*Identify which politicians and what political parties they represent. Provide favourable and unfavourable examples where possible .
  • Always favourable
  • Favourable
  • Unfavourable
  • Hostile

What are the attitudes of civil servants towards the private sector?

*Specify which ministries and departments and at what level of seniority
  • Always favourable
  • Favourable
  • Unfavourable
  • Hostile

Is there acknowledgement by the public sector of the importance of the business community’s role in the policy debate?

*Specify which ministries and departments and at what level of seniority
  • Across ministries
  • Certain ministries
  • Labour Ministry only
  • No Ministries

Are there mandatory requirements for government bodies to engage with the private sector?

  • Yes, across issues
  • On an ad hoc basis only
  • No

Is so, which ones, at what level, and at which stage in the process of enacting a piece of legislation or regulation?

 

Have the public authorities issued safeguards to prevent cronyism, trained public sector officials in handling relationship with the private sector, or communicated internally about public-private relationships?

  • Yes, and this has been effective
  • Yes, but it has had no impact
  • No

Are there any government departments regarded as favourable to private sector concerns?

List the specific issues – provide any recent examples

Can these be targeted as champions for EO consultation in government?

Yes/No

Are there any individuals who can act as public sector champions for dialogue and who are not perceived as politically divisive figures?

List names and seniority

What were previous EO consultative experiences with government like?

Did government officials listen to the EO’s concerns but not respond?

Does the EO have formal processes for gathering input from its members in the regions?

Can this be done with members across regions in the country?

Can the EO sustain engagement with Government?

Does it have the appropriate resources to sustain the effort?

Can the EO work with other representative business organizations to present combined (and strengthened) positions?

List all potential organizations

(1) Centre for International Private Enterprise: How to advocate Effectively: A guidebook for business associations, 2006.

(2) Ibid.

(3) Public-Private Dialogues: A Summary of the Fourth PPD Workshop, Vienna, Austria, 2009.

(4) Questions adapted from: The PPD Handbook: a toolkit for business environment reformers by Benjamin Herzberg and Andrew Wright (DFID, World Bank, IFC, OECD Development Centre).