Government plays a central role in promoting business interests. Good government service supports sustainable business and economic development. Business also has a growing stake in helping government deliver public services. Government and business working together can make for an empowered, productive citizenry.
But the relationship invites controversy: Why does government need to enable the business environment? What is the right balance between government policy and business regulation? Who should manage business-government relations? How well do public-private partnerships work? How entrepreneurial should government be? What can government do to help business go international?
Since 2004, the Institute for Citizen-Centred Service has championed Taking Care of Business, a landmark study of government-to-business service delivery from the perspective of the business community. The research identifies issues relevant to government service providers as change leaders testing new ideas and technologies to improve services. Government responses benefit from listening to the needs of Canadian businesses who want easy access to service and value for tax dollars.
TCOB4 survey results in 2013 revealed:
• Improving satisfaction with the quality of government service – many businesses still expect better service, with timeliness remaining the top driver of satisfaction;
• Growing opportunity for providing self-service options – 75% of respondents want to access routine government services online, exceeding the telephone channel for the first time; and
• Rising red tape burden – the majority of businesses report that red tape has either increased (48%) or stayed the same (49%) over the past three years.
Increasing Canadian companies’ participation in international development is also a priority. The 2013 Speech from the Throne declared that, “… our Government will help the world’s neediest by partnering with the private sector to create economic growth in the developing world.” Business has the resources, talent, energy, and flexibility to innovate and overcome development challenges creatively.
On a global scale, foreign direct investment in developing countries is five times official development assistance. Canada is lagging behind at $13 billion in FDI, or just under three times ODA. Canadian companies secure only 2.01% of World Bank contracts awarded to OECD countries and only 0.46% of the dollar value. Alliances with non-traditional partners – banks, mining companies, small businesses, foundations, diasporas – can help realize development outcomes.
Canada needs to leverage its comparative advantage and expertise by increasing private capital investment and private participation in technical cooperation. This also means resisting the temptation to let domestic economic policy drive foreign policy and development assistance.