Friday, 7 October 2011

Why do we keep talking about business?

By Noshua Watson

You may have noticed that over the last few weeks, months in fact, the recurring topic of this blog has been about the impact of business in international development. Particularly as IDS has now hosted three fringe events at all the recent party conferences, asking ‘is business the new aid?’

IDS Director Lawrence Haddad, argued in his blog post this week that the answer to this question is no.

‘No because businesses creating jobs and tax revenues are much more powerful than aid in reducing poverty and no because unlike businesses, aid has a responsibility to work for the most vulnerable.’

It does depend on what perspective you consider the role of business. From a philanthropic stance, there is a clear space for organisations with the capacity to support governments and civil society through tough economic times in donating aid to developing communities. The issue with such organisations is around regulation, and ensuring that the support is sustainable.

However, as Haddad emphasises, the focus should inherently be on how business can work within a country and create growth. It is about a community being able to support itself out of poverty.

David Cameron’s close out speech at the Conservative Party Conference echoed these thoughts, but he obviously put his attention a bit closer to home.

‘Our businesses need the space to grow - literally. That's one of the reasons we're reforming our planning system. It's hard to blame local people for opposing developments when they get none of the benefits. We're changing that. If a new manufacturing plant is built in your area - your community keeps the business rates. If new homes get built - you keep the council tax.’

Business acts at all levels, be it your corner shop or the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It seems we are all singing to a similar tune, it’s now time to put it into action, home and away.