Asking the big questions about economics

Peter Callaghan

Deals to the tune of US$2 billion are expected to come to fruition as a result of the 2013 Commonwealth Business Forum. The event, which takes place at CHOGM, provides a unique opportunity for business and political leaders to meet and discuss solutions to current economic issues, as well as forge investment partnerships

The Commonwealth Business Forum (CBF) has become an important element of the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, giving political and business leaders the opportunity to ask big questions about the economic issues impacting on the Commonwealth family. 

In bringing together this unique concentration of international decision-makers, the Commonwealth Business Council (CBC) enables Heads of Government, and their ministers, to interact with the private sector in generating new ideas and models for sustainable and inclusive growth by strengthening partnerships between business and government. This year, a consistent theme in all sessions was the strategic importance of human capital in the development of all Commonwealth countries. 

In concrete terms, the CBC expects deals worth US$2 billion in new projects and investments to be concluded over the coming nine months as a result of the high-level meetings that were facilitated at the event. The CBC is confident that the CBF project exchange and the thousands of one-to-one exchanges between delegates will bring about a healthy business flow in 2014 and beyond. 

In an important new initiative to enhance investment flows across the Commonwealth, the CBC took advantage of the forum to convene the inaugural meeting of the Commonwealth Investment Promotion Agency Network, aimed at pooling knowledge and best practice. Observations from this lively session included the importance of supporting the home sector in line with foreign investors and the recognition of regional expansion as an important growth opportunity for domestic industries. 

Good progress was made with expanding the Commonwealth Business Women’s Network, with more than 80 delegates attending an implementation workshop. Out of this we expect the group to progress, with new ventures including the creation of a dedicated Commonwealth Business Women’s website which will link to common workspaces, a business exchange, and start-up and business development resources. 

It was noticeable that economic commentators at the forum were showing increasing confidence that underlying changes in the global economy point to a long cycle of growth that will offer an unparalleled opportunity for governments to develop and enact long-term plans. There was also talk of growth reaching a historic high. Plans could include investment in large infrastructure projects, the restructuring of poorly performing sectors (both public and private) and further investment in social services to support the business sector across the Commonwealth. 

The forum also demonstrated that innovative Sri Lankan businesses were thriving and increasingly keen to pursue international opportunities. Attraction of further foreign direct investment will help ensure Sri Lanka achieves its domestic and international growth plans. In the course of the forum, the CBC had the opportunity to meet associated Commonwealth bodies – including the Commonwealth Education Trust and the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation – to work as a group in helping the Commonwealth Secretariat implement its new strategic plan. This was endorsed at a session with foreign ministers on 16 November. 

Good business is built on good relationships. The CBC facilitates the creation and maintenance of relationships across the Commonwealth and beyond, acting as the business guide for trade and investment. 

The CBC once again wishes to express its sincere thanks to His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa, President of Sri Lanka; the Honourable Basil Rajapaksa, Minister of Economic Development; the Honourable Professor G. L. Peiris, Minister of External Affairs; and all the Sri Lankan government for its support in hosting the forum. 

About the author:

Peter Callaghan is Director General of the Commonwealth Business Council


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