The Americas were still recovering from the multiple economic and social challenges triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic when war broke out in Ukraine, increasing global tensions. These two vastly distinct types of disasters underline how important human resilience is.
Resilience was on our minds when we began examining the private sector’s role during this disruptive and challenging phase. The current context calls for firm, decisive action that will lead to a pragmatic agenda for reform.
These reforms need to be firmly grounded, and the strategies for implementing them should involve everyone: governments, the private sector, multilateral organizations, and civil society. These stakeholders each have their own focus, but ultimately, they are all trying to get to the same place.
How a reform is implemented is just as important as its content. Reforms acquire greater legitimacy when empowerment is at their core.
In this spirit, the Americas Business Dialogue (ABD) presented its 2022 Policy Recommendations Report to the region’s governments. The initiative drew on the experience it has built up over the years to put forward 32 thematic recommendations with specific policy actions to drive implementation and key performance indicators.
This plan may be highly ambitious, but that doesn’t make it any less real. It is also more urgent than ever. Economic growth only develops an identity of its own when it is rooted in sustainability and inclusion. As the empirical evidence shows, these are essential aspects of development.
No mechanism is better suited to spearhead this task than the ABD, which is led by the private sector and facilitated by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
The ABD’s objective is to create a high-level exchange between the region’s public and private sectors to design and implement better public policies. It has more than 400 members, representing companies and organizations from every sector of the economy and from all over the Americas. This diversity makes it the perfect sounding board in today’s disruptive environment, which demands action rather than mere expressions of desire.
The report that contains the ABD’s 2022 recommendations is divided into four core pillars.
Strong and inclusive democratic governance
The first core area puts forward two factors that are essential for effective democratic governance: transparency and integrity. These also help make the system more robust and “rebuild people’s trust in institutions and markets,” as well as being critical in the fight against corruption.
In this sense, it is considered appropriate for governments to introduce good regulatory practices and digital tools and to modernize their public procurement systems.
Governance also becomes more robust when the labor market and the economy are more diverse and inclusive. Policies in this direction contribute to development and equality, including a higher participation of women and of people from diverse social groups. Another positive indicator is the increased involvement of micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).
Measures of this sort always strengthen the rule of law.
Equitable growth and prosperity
As the empirical evidence shows, trade in goods and services is at the heart of high-quality economic growth, which the Americas can strengthen by improving and modernizing customs procedures and promoting regulatory convergence.
All of this would facilitate intra-regional trade. So would developing the digital economy, which is already growing but would have much more potential if the region strengthened its connectivity, which is currently very patchy. This is the focus of the second core area.
But this isn’t enough: inclusive, high-quality growth also depends on other factors. These include a solid, resilient, globally integrated financial sector; more investment in infrastructure that meets international standards; a commitment to innovation through a secure investment environment; increased resources for research; and an improvement in the quality of education.
A green future powered by clean energy
A comprehensive development plan must include care for the environment, the third core area in the ABD report.
The main measures for counteracting global warming caused by human activity include combating climate change; fulfilling the commitments of the Paris Agreement; supporting low-carbon and zero-emission technologies; further integrating different types of renewable energy, and strengthening sustainable and urban agriculture, along with a framework for investment in environmental, social, and governance (ESG).
The role of health
The experience of the Covid-19 pandemic is more than enough to justify including the health ecosystem as an essential part of the fourth core area.
The section entitled “Securing health, recovery, and resilience” contains recommendations that seek to safeguard fiscal space and promote innovative financing for the health sector. Other aims include accelerating the development of digital healthcare; promoting regulatory convergence for the development of new drugs, vaccines, and medical devices; and positioning the region as an investment destination and a meaningful link in the global healthcare supply chain.
The 32 recommendations are linked by cross-cutting issues that were a source of inspiration for the report as a whole. In general, the business suggestions acknowledge the region’s situation in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, which is why the document is based on recovery and coping capacities.
The ideas put forward in the report are tailored to each specific situation, but they all draw on tools for advancing common objectives, such as regional integration, which facilitates the flow of people, goods, services and capital; the harmonization of regulatory frameworks; and digitalization to increase regional competitiveness and create more efficient, transparent markets. A core aspect of developing comprehensive, innovative solutions to complex problems is public-private partnerships, the ABD’s raison d’être.
We encourage companies in the Americas who have not yet joined the ABD to do so and collaborate with governments to consolidate sustainable, inclusive growth for our region.
And because it takes two to tango, we’d also like to invite governments to review the ABD’s recommendations and consider them in their public policy decisions.
The private sector has drawn on its experience and made a massive contribution to the region’s recovery from the pandemic, the aftershocks of which are still being felt.
Economic and social vulnerability and human fragility have been at the forefront of accounts of the crisis.
Times of disruptions and discontinuity, like the present, are when we most need a message of hope for the future. That is precisely what the 70-page ABD report hopes to achieve through its focus on sustainability, resilience, and equity.