Friday, 25 March 2011

Eminent Persons Group's Recommendations

While I welcome the Eminent Persons Group's recommendations on the need for reform and greater collaboration between commonwealth agencies, what was not in the report was a great disappointment.

The report did not specify what reforms need to be conducted to ensure the association stays relevant in the future and keeps delivering for all 54 states. The statement on collaboration between agencies and Secretariat, fails to elaborate on the quality and type of technical assistance, or on the delivery of technical assistance through the Commonwealth's Key agencies outside the Secretariat. Delivering though other agencies could be key mechanism to reduce the cost of delivering technical assistance, improving is quality and reducing duplication and redundancy within the Commonwealth family. This would allow the size of Secretariat to be reduced while increasing the quality of scope of the Technical Assistance provided.

It is equally disappointing that the Eminent Persons did not talk about the Private sector and growth, as I have mentioned before, it is my belief that the Commonwealth works at its very best when giving dual focus to both the Harare Declaration on Human Rights and the Edinborough Economic Declaration. And in this time of increased economic hardships in most Commonwealth countries, private sector money is going to be more and more important. It is unlikely Governments are going to put forward large sums of new money given the pressing domestic priorities. Refocusing existing money and mobilising the private sector and other funding sources could be an answer.

As the Eminent Persons Group have said there is now real possibility of the official Commonwealth slowly moving towards the end of the road. I hope the upcoming CHOGM to be held in Perth, Australia in October will give the Association a new beginning. But given the contents of the eminent persons report, I fear it is again going to be tweaking rather than true reform.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Rwanda's Impressive Growth

I was recently in Rwanda to brief President Kagame on CBC’s programme for the coming months and discuss his involvement in the Commonwealth Business Forum to be held in Perth, Australia later this year. This was the first trip to Rwanda where I had the chance to get out and around and see some of the Country outside of Kigali.

I was impressed by the level of development visible outside of the capital, the roads we used to travel to the new Free Trade Zones the government are setting up to promote exports are world class. And one of President Kagame’s headline schemes to get Rwanda on-line, is nearly complete – this will open up huge new opportunities across the country.

Rwanda’s success has lessons for us all, President Kagame has lead an active international investment promotion campaign that is paying dividends. Much of Rwanda’s growth is driven by the Private Sector, giving the Government room to focus on the countries social needs.

During our discussions, President Kagame was keen to highlight the emerging investment opportunities in Rwanda’s power sector, including Hydro, Methane Gas and other renewable and in ICT. And he was particularly keen to highlight the opportunities in Agriculture, specifically Tea and Tea processing where the value addition is now being done inside Rwanda.

President Kagame will lead a business delegation to the Africa Investment Forum in Tanzania on April 17 -19, where many of the Projects he highlighted will be presented. I would encourage all of those with an interest to come along to the Forum as it will be a very important business event for East Africa and the Continent as a whole.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Public Sector Reform in the UK

In the UK currently much of the political discourse is centred on reducing Britain's Deficit and the Government's cuts in spending and the resulting impact on public services. However there is a second quite interesting stream to the government's plans that is receiving less media attention, the reform and the enhance role of the private sector in public services.

The UK has led in the past on enhancing the role business plays in the public sector, throughout the 80s it was the privatisation of unities, something that many other countries have emulated since. In the 90s and early 2000s it was the UK that led the way on Public Private Partnerships with PFIs, this initiative is also used increasing abroad and the UK is one of the world's largest providers of experts in this field.

The UK has a history of innovative public sector reform and this next round proposed by the Prime Minister David Cameron has the opportunity to be in the same vein. Plans to open government contracts up to SMEs rather than just large Corporates, for example, is sensible, it allows the country's largest employing sector access to the country's largest buyer. And widening the role the Private Sector can play in the provision of services will increase competition and hopefully improve quality at a time when government is decreasing spending.

If well implemented, this round of reform could well be emulated across the globe like the past.