‘Mobilizing Global Capital for Emerging Infrastructure Models’ was yet one more panel at the Global Economic Symposium that proved the uncontrollable character of business. In fact, it should have been titled “How to Take Over Large Infrastructure Projects Without Host States’ Knowledge.”
Present corporations are similar to small states. They have thousands of employees, operate on international markets, make their own policy and – whatever they would have us think – still have the same aim: profit. Even it if is a general conclusion, and even if we can name many actors who are exceptions in one or more ways, this description is still entirely valid. Using smooth language business makes us feel sedated; businessmen are quite skilled at using words that raise no suspicion.
‘Mobilizing Global Capital for Emerging Infrastructure’ is just the next instance of such play. The panel’s stated purpose was to determine “how long-term capital (from private and sovereign sources) can be mobilized in the most effective way to achieve public policy objectives and meet citizens’ needs.” Reading such sentences, we might think that public good is the most important part of this question. But by participating in discourse that is designed to make us feel that way, businesses con us. We give away our arguments to businesses, telling them what we will want to hear later.
In this specific issue we talk about hypothetical cases that will never occur because private capital will never be enough to achieve citizens’ needs. In this case, we’re looking at businesses intercepting large infrastructure investments from the state, recruiting enormous and very stable streams of money that come directly from taxpayers.
Global business has become so powerful that it can be an equal partner for many states. It presents its knowledge and resources, offering to take over specific activities that have up to now only been reserved for states. The temptation for states to hand over many of these activities is strong, and business may be successful in this process, because transferring activities from states to the private sector is comfortable for authorities who are taught to expect business to produce better results than states. Although this process has already started (e.g. private investors building highways in Poland and demanding fees for it from the drivers), the whole idea is still very new. The business practices call for building institutional capacity to set up some kind of regulation. But we are increasingly seeing a situation in which states just delegate their duties to the private sector.
Victor L. L. Chu, Chairman, First Eastern Investment Group
Julia Prescott, Partner and Chief Strategy Officer, Meridiam Infrastructure
Thomas Mirow, President, European Bank, for Reconstruction and Development
Rwangombwa John, Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Rwanda
Samsunlu, Kadri, Chief Financial Officer, Akfen
Declan Curry Business Correspondent, BBC