From 2000 to 2005, with support from the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), the Center for Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (CEED) and the Montenegro Business Alliance (MBA) identified barriers to business development, created an annual National Business Agenda, and organized high level forums between the private sector and government representatives. As a result, they achieved seven legislative reforms reducing tax rates, easing business registration and licensing requirements, and simplifying bankruptcy procedures. It is a prime example of the impact of public-private dialogue.
In early June, CIPE launched the Reform Toolkit, Making the Most of Public-Private Dialogue: An Advocacy Approach, the World Chambers Conference in Mexico City. CIPE Executive Director John Sullivan spoke about the toolkit at a panel on global public-private partnerships, discussing the ways in which the private sector can engage with governments through institutional advocacy.
Public-private dialogue is an important tool in governance reform for several reasons – it can set policy priorities, improve legislation, incorporate feedback into regulation, and create a foundation for market friendly policies. When done correctly, it improves the flow of information and increases legitimacy.
To help business leaders improve their relations with the public sector, the toolkit offers an advocacy approach to dialogue for the creation of better and more efficient economic policy. The toolkit explains the role of advocacy strategy in dialogue, the principles of high quality dialogue, the elements of effective communication, and the steps to prepare for dialogue. It also offers examples from CIPE partners where public-private dialogue has been instrumental in developing new policy and reforming existing regulations.
Take Egypt for example, where the Federation of Economic Development Associations (FEDA) organized six regional level policy roundtables to present a position paper and make recommendations on the draft Unified Law on Industry. Representatives from parliament, the Industrial Development Authority, the Egyptian Federation of Industry, chambers of commerce, FEDA member businesses, civil society, and media attended the roundtables where FEDA advocated against 132 Ministry of Industry and Trade regulatory decrees. As a result of FEDA’s successful application of advocacy in public-private dialogue 84 regulatory decrees were removed, including one barring manufacturing businesses from importing less expensive scrap metal or machining tools.
The benefits stemming from public-private dialogue are widespread, but dialogue does not benefit the private sector through policy reform alone, it can also strengthen an organization’s skills and build its reputation. Successful dialogue can both attract new members and mobilize existing members around important issues. Whatever the desired outcome, public-private dialogue requires continued effort on the part of business leaders to build upon early successes.