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The potential for inclusive growth

  • Published at 10:31 pm October 4th, 2018

What development partners can offer us

Residing in a country where the growth of high net-worth individuals is one of the fastest, I see immense potential of inclusive growth. The good news is that we need not find a new medium to share the benefits of this growth -- the world has already chosen one for us.

It has now been three years since 193 nations unanimously adopted the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We are enthusiastic about the goals, but we have a long way to go to understand the different roles that the government, businesses, and citizens should play in the process of achieving those goals.

A concerted effort to meet them will be a key driver of economic growth -- an estimated $12 trillion a year in business savings and revenue by 2030. However, in a world where non-financial impacts are rarely measured and investment budgets are constantly under scrutiny and stringent prioritization, creating a real appetite to embed SDGs in our everyday lives is a significant challenge.

Clarity is required to give businesses the confidence to embrace SDGs. We need guidelines, case studies, best practice examples, mapping tools to understand how our actions affect the world. We hear of businesses asking for support with financing, resources, and skill requirements for engaging with SDGs. 

It is only when they are in place that we will see real engagement instead of NGO-speak and political rhetoric.

This is where development partners have the most to offer.

For achievement of the SDGs, a necessary level of financing and its efficient use are necessary. To ensure more effective and efficient cooperation, collaboration among development partners enables to bring different sets of expertise and technologies to the table.

In addition, to support large-scale development projects, collaboration could be a solution when a single organization cannot meet the required needs. Dissemination of development partners’ experience and knowledge on development cooperation will not only improve the quality of national and international initiatives, but also increase the understanding of the impacts of SDGs.

SDGs shouldn’t simply be confined to a specific showcase project, but should be embedded in our ways of working, which prioritizes the impact on the global goals alongside the business objectives.

Driven by governments and NGOs, the Millennial Development Goals (MDGs) had achieved much, but it is widely recognized that there is significant work still to be done. It is expected that the SDGs will engage the private sector far more effectively than MDGs, with businesses as pro-active supporters of governments, as they try to achieve the goals. Certainly, we’ve noted that awareness of SDGs is high amongst businesses, much more so than among citizens.

To translate that awareness into action, the private sector needs to have an informed dialogue with the government. Data will be crucial -- determining what to measure and how, and actually measuring, monitoring, and reporting it will all be significant challenges in themselves. Development partners need to be a lynchpin throughout the whole process, which in itself, would help achieving SDG 17 of Global Partnerships.

In terms of social good, some SDGs provide better returns than others. Made up of 169 targets, if the world were to spend money equally across all of them, it would do about $7 of social good for each dollar spent. But according to the Copenhagen Consensus, a much shorter list of just 19 targets will do the most for the world.

Every dollar spent on these targets will likely produce $32 of social good. Being smart about development spending could be better than quadrupling the global aid budget. Hence development partners can drive the prioritization of the SDGs for countries around the world.

Development partners have the expertise, experience, and success stories from around the world in areas of infrastructure, food and agriculture, health, education, climate resilience, and adaptability.

Both businesses and governments could use that multi-faceted expertise and experience of development partners to battle their own unique challenges. 

Mamun Rashid is a leading economic analyst and a partner at PwC Bangladesh. This article is an excerpt of his speech at the recently held ICMAB International Conference session on the role of development partners in materializing SDGs.

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