The Business of Doing Good

August 2, 2012 By Mark Green

For international development to be successful, it needs to be sustainable, cost-effective, and efficient.  In other words, more like business.  And for American businesses to grow, they need to be looking at the 95% of consumers living outside of the United States and to developing countries where over half of U.S. exports already go.  So it makes perfect sense for the U.S. to improve public-private cooperation and coordination to improve the success of U.S. global development efforts.

The Economic Growth and Development Act of 2012, introduced today by Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) in the Senate (S. 3495) and by Reps. Steve Chabot (R-OH) and Russ Carnahan (D-MO) (H.R. 6178) in the House, seeks to do just this.

With 12 departments, 26 agencies, and more than 60 governmental offices involved in the delivery of U.S. foreign assistance, coordination with the private sector is currently costly and inefficient, not to mention daunting and frustrating for businesses to navigate the process.  While there has been successful reform in other realms of development agencies, improving partnerships with the private sector is badly needed.  The Act would strengthen alignment and coordination between U.S. development organizations and the private sector by:

  • Establishing an interagency liaison to give companies a single point of contact across all development agencies and departments,
  • Integrating the private sector in the development programming process, and
  • Institutionalizing analyses on constraints to growth and investment

As the lines of communication and coordination are opened, agencies are able to glean private sector experience, share information, and better tailor development efforts.  For businesses, these partnerships also help to level the playing field in an increasingly competitive world.

At a time when Congress is dealing with fiscal constraint and sequestration, recognizing the potential for U.S. economic growth that exists in the developing world is key.  By improving coordination mechanisms, development agencies can better attract private sector investment and leverage U.S. investment to advance the interests of American businesses in developing markets we can grow our economy and create jobs here at home.

As one in five American jobs supported by exports, it is critical for American businesses to have access to emerging markets in the developing world.  Our development and diplomatic operations do just that.  And that’s why enhancing interagency and private sector coordination gives taxpayers more bang for their buck and effectively does more with less.

Read more about how our international affairs programs are a strategic investment for U.S. jobs.