A Guide to the Contemporary Commonwealth

By W. David McIntyre | Go to book overview

23
Public–Private Partnerships and a
Commonwealth Business Culture

The most striking example of non-governmental contributions at the start of the new century was the new-found role expected of the private business sector. In the emerging new balance within the Commonwealth, private investment and private management expertise were extolled as never before. Public–private partnerships – ‘smart partnerships’ as they were dubbed – became the new panacea. If the first half of the 1990s had seen the fleshing out of Commonwealth political values, culminating in the suspension of Nigeria and the creation of the C-Mag in 1995, the second half of the decade was time for the clarification of the economic tenets of the Harare Declaration. The creation of the Commonwealth Private Investment Initiative and the Commonwealth Business Council signified deepening faith in market forces, free trade, and the ability of private business enterprise to solve the problems of economic inequality. In this new climate, the private sector, the inter-governmental agencies, NGOs and governments faced the new millennium with astonishing, possibly quixotic, optimism.

*

Trade and finance had always featured in Commonwealth councils. In the 1950s the management of the Sterling Area was a key issue, followed in the 1960s by debates about Britain’s impending entry into the EEC. In the 1971 Declaration of Principles the Heads of Government condemned ‘wide disparities of wealth’ among peoples as ‘too great to be tolerated’. Arnold Smith’s parting words, at the end of his Secretary-Generalship in 1975, were that the growing gap in living standards between the developed and developing countries was ‘neither decent nor sane’. 1 Ramphal’s years were those of the North/South Dialogue in which the Commonwealth’s contribution was embodied in the reports

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