This case study reviews private sector-related institutional mechanisms for services policy-making and negotiations in Barbados, as well as in Botswana and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR). It highlights the critical role of business-support organisations in collaborating with policy-makers to improve the business and investment climate.
This case study reviews private sector-related institutional mechanisms for services policy-making and negotiations in Barbados and, to a lesser extent, Botswana and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR). Barbados was selected as the main focus for the case study as it has a well organised private sector framework geared towards improving the business environment for service providers. Further, Barbados is quintessentially a services economy marked by a strong base of domestic service providers in addition to a growing segment of international service providers. The selection of Botswana and Lao PDR presents an interesting contrast given these emerging economies are driven by extractive industries. In addition, the assessment of countries with different political traditions also offers a unique perspective in the sense that mechanisms for driving services reform can be successfully implemented in any context.
The research is motivated by the desire to highlight key lessons and challenges which may assist low income countries in better enabling such mechanisms domestically. The study represents a step in providing access to information on ‘best practices’ for private sector mechanisms to support enhanced services trade.
A number of interesting insights emerged from the discussion of these mechanisms. These are briefly mentioned below.
Business-support organisations (BSOs) play a critical role in collaborating with policy-makers to improve the business and investment climate in which services providers operate and to create opportunities for export-led growth. In order to do so, BSOs must be endowed with the capacity to make quality interventions or, at minimum, be able to access resources to assist in formulating such interventions. Core elements of being able to deliver quality interventions include the availability of knowledgeable persons to undertake research and formulate positions and resources to undertake such research.
In as much as BSOs may be strong advocates for improvements in the regulatory and business environment, unattended governance issues, such as those related to government effectiveness, regulatory quality and the rule of law, are likely to mount a strong challenge to the success of their efforts.
While public-private dialogues (PPDs) offer a potential remedy to such situations, the true test of their efficiency is to be found in the extent to which decisions are translated into meaningful reforms. A key factor for success is in having a government that is a genuine partner that demonstrably takes other views into account.
In terms of the successful mobilisation for services reform, inter-BSO collaboration is an effective tool for coping with the increased technical demands of trade in services negotiations.
In addition, smart partnerships with agencies in the international development community are important. Collaboration with such agencies provides financially constrained BSOs with resources to undertake tasks such as formulating technical inputs into discussions on services policy. It also creates avenues for BSOs to enhance their array of membership services in areas such as skills development.
Overall, the applicability of the best practices identified in the study is likely to be determined by the national context which includes the extent of government involvement and the capabilities of the BSOs themselves.