Public/Private Sector Forum to Strengthen Partnership for Growth Print E-mail
( 3 Votes )
Written by Shane D. Williams   
Thursday, 24 July 2014 13:49

Private sector representatives from financial institutions, wholesalers, construction companies, energy, agricultural, tourism sectors and others joined Government officials on Thursday, July 17, for Prime Minister Barrow’s 3rd Business Forum. The first forum was held in November of 2011 and the event has significantly strengthened the relationship and trust between Government and the private sector. This year’s forum was held under the theme “Strengthening Partnership for Growth”.

The only reason there is a third Business Forum is because of the tireless work of a committee that was formed during the first. That committee evolved into the Economic Development Council. Amparo Masson was the President of the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry at the time of the first business forum. Shortly after that forum, she was appointed by Prime Minister Barrow as Special Liaison to the Private Sector, working directly out of the Office of the Prime Minister. Masson was also selected to be Co-Chair of the Economic Development Council along with Mike Singh, C.E.O. in the Ministry of Trade. The Economic Development Council is comprised of ten members: five from the private sector and five Chief Executive Officers of Government. In the words of Prime Minister Barrow, the Council’s role is “to identify and implement those approaches, activities and operations that will raise the level of business activity in Belize on a sustainable basis; that will expand jobs, incomes, and business profits; that will improve and expand the efficiency and effectiveness of public sector operations; and all with a view to improving, as rapidly as possible and on a sustained basis, the living levels and quality of life of all residents of our country.”

This year there was more order to the forum. Instead of speeches and open discussions in which every topic was on the table all the time, there were four panels this year. Those panels covered a wide range of topics but focused on banking and financial network, trade and investments, service delivery, infrastructure, ICT and other variables that influence the business climate. An open discussion was held on the topics covered by each panel separately. Many facts and opinions were shared and it was a learning experience for representatives of Government and members of the private sector.

Prime Minister Barrow has shown that he acts upon the recommendations made at the forums. He says that while its Government’s job to provide an enabling environment for the business community to thrive and it is the business community’s job to create jobs and lead economic growth, there are times when one side must extend beyond its expected role. Prime Minister Barrow says, “There will be times when one side or the other will need to take on some of the tasks of the opposite number in order to achieve specific objectives. The fact is, then, that there is every reason for private and public sectors to maintain this structural relationship on the issues we face, and on how to overcome them.” Amparo Masson says, “I think over the past two and a half years, since the Economic Development Council has been put in place, we’ve seen quite a bit of confidence building in one another…The input of the private sector in trade negotiations has never been this prominent.”