Center / regions: the sacred science of hearing each other

Center / regions: the sacred science of hearing each other

08/10/15 9:52 Bishkek, Talaibek Koichumanov exlusively for for IA «».
A year ago, pilot investment councils were set up in Naryn and Osh at an initiative of the government of Kyrgyzstan. Their main task was to provide a regional platform for dialogue between representatives of the government and entrepreneurs. The third such council was established in spring of 2015 in Issyk-Kul region at an initiative of the plenipotentiary representative of the Prime Minister Emilbek Kaptagaev.

National Investment Council under the government, which is led by the Prime Minister, was established in 2010 and, according to the business community, performs its work effectively. Business associations are actively using an opportunity to conduct dialogue with the heads of government agencies at the highest level. More than 50 laws and government decrees concerning an improvement of the business environment and investment climate, in areas such as inspections, optimization of regulatory and licensing system, improvement of tax and customs administration, not counting a large number of industry and regulatory rules have been initiated and subsequently adopted through this platform. Numbers can demonstrate competent efforts of the council: only eight business associations were members when the council began its operations, now it has fifty-three of such members. That is, entrepreneurs believe in an opportunity to engage in dialogue and to address important issues that affect their activities.

Why not only business, but also first and foremost the government, needs regional councils? I will try to explain it in a simple way. Firstly, all economists, and not only them, recognize that the main problem is inefficient governance in the country. Hence, it explains a large gap between adopted "good" laws and their implementation in the field. In fact, many of the laws are not working. Such is caused by corruption and shadow economy. How to fix this situation? The government should strengthen controls over an execution of their decisions at the local level. Institute of plenipotentiary representatives of the government was created in regions to ensure a promotion of decisions of the cabinet of ministries in these regions. It is not required to come up with anything extraordinary in order to understand why laws are not working or how to improve the situation of business development in regions. We need a dialogue - a dialogue between the government and the territorial community, including regional entrepreneurs and local self-governments. Such a dialogue should take place on a regular basis, it should be prepared, and such meetings should involve representatives from the government and the business.

What is happening in reality? The recent roundtable organized by us, which was attended by representatives of regional investment councils, local governments and the State Agency for local self-governance, shown that these councils are very unstable in the field, poorly supported by the state. Local governmental officials often do not participate and are not interested in their work. The governors are simply not interested, and this is understandable: they do not have any accountability to Bishkek for work of such councils. There is no motivation. But this is wrong. This situation is reminiscent of the vicious circle, because it does not make it possible to improve quality of public administration, as discussed above. There is no interest in regions, and most importantly, no belief that something can be changed.

What can we offer? Top officials must realize that if they want to change this situation, it is necessary to conduct an ongoing dialogue in the field – not episodically and superficially, but in depth and on day-to-day basis. It is important to find out what is wrong, and why it does not work, what hampers development and what would be necessary to correct, modify, and further improve. These proposals can be sent to the government for further action. The scheme, as you can see, is very simple. And there are clear mechanisms on how to do it. The only thing needed is a will. One just has to activate a so-called political will, and a feedback from regions will start to come.

An indicator, such as the efficiency of the regional investment councils, could be included in an assessment of work of local governmental representatives. There is no cost, but an effect will not take long. Governors will be interested in participating in such meetings and in supporting work of the councils on an ongoing basis.

What other issues could be addressed by such platforms? Numerous donor projects operate in all regions. Their representatives could be included as members in these councils. They can discuss common problems of economic development of regions and participate in a discussion alongside businesses and government agencies and local government. Participation of representatives from the government in regional investment councils will represent a feedback to the Parliament, which forms the government. All parties will benefit from such participation.

I think that if these two tasks will be carried out by regional investment councils, it will be more than enough to justify their creation, and such councils can really become good instruments for the government in improving feedback from the regions and increasing an efficiency of public administration in general.

Finally, we might not have an ideal business environment, but one thing is clear that we are at the forefront at a public-private dialogue. This is recognized not only by our domestic business associations, but also by international experts. There are five similar to ours investment councils - in Armenia, Georgia, Tajikistan, Moldova and Albania, and it is gratifying that, in many respects they are studying experience of public-private dialogue in our country. But we should not rest on our laurels and must continue such work.

Talaibek Koichumanov
Head of the Secretariat of the Business Development and Investment Council under the Government of the KR

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