Diplomats and the members of ACE are natural partners, Barbara Stephenson has told delegates at the ACE Annual Conference. She explained that both recognise the rewards and challenges of project management, and that there is one area in particular worthy of focus, the convergence of diplomats and the work they do in shaping international markets - and the work of ACE member firms abroad.
Some of the issues faced abroad include the use of opaque legal systems and corruption to limit market access. She said we need a free, fair and transparent playing field for competition and for doing business internationally. US and UK business are well placed to compete in an international environment. Both the UK and US are making foreign policy efforts to gain work aboard a priority. As part of this she said we have to make efforts to support developing countries in addressing these issues.
Nations are making it harder for governments to play dirty. The open government partnership now combines 47 countries, including the UK. This aims to promote freedom of information, the sharing of knowledge and improving conditions. The private sector is a critical part of fostering improvement. Companies such as members of ACE are used to working to some of the highest levels of compliance. According to the OECD, challenges include the need to spend $112bn on railways, $421bn on electricity markets and $1.8tn on water infrastructure.
Ms Stephenson explained that it was incredibly important to recognise how projects are undertaken. They don’t only transform the physical landscape of the country but also the labour force and government themselves. Responsible companies ensure that resources are not wasted and that infrastructure such as schools, roads and railways are built to a high standard.
Working ethically whilst being able to earn profit was important, and both the UK and US governments will continue to work with industry to improve international conditions. She said it was important to recognise that the decisions developing countries make now will affect conditions for a significant period going forward. The UK and US thus have a role to play in helping to ensure that the decisions that are made are ethical and sustainable.
This shows international markets that the UK and US brands are responsible, improving our country brands by displaying our values and ethics. Ultimately, she explained, sustainable economic growth and progress depends on sustainable development. It is time to recognise more publically that companies such as ACE members reflect the good work of the industry and the importance it plays internationally.
Barbara Stephenson then invited participants to form a team with the US and UK governments and set out how the private sector should be rewarded for its contribution and how to develop improved processes going forward?
In conversation with delegates, Ms Stephenson agreed that government needs to work to deliver very real projects that have a lasting impact. This could be done in both the right way and the wrong way, and efforts had to be made to do it the right way. Procurement remains very complex and getting this process right is thus important to ensure that the right project is delivered.
She accepted that getting governments to accept help in creating these transparent and open procurement processes was not easy. One way to improve this might be to invite consultants in to the process earlier to help make sure that processes are efficient, because industry has the skill set to make that happen.
Author: Economics Correspondent Graham Pontin (firstname.lastname@example.org or 0207 227 882)