Dear Members and Friends ,
A great trio of D Group events and pair of BEI ones this week, but sadly set alongside the end of the road for a long-term and highly valued D Group member, Carillion. Amidst the finger-pointing and inevitable recriminations we should remember there are thousands of cases of individual apprehension and uncertainty. Going through this are some truly excellent executives whom we have had the pleasure of welcoming over recent years and we look forward to helping them. Whilst the UK infrastructure sector could be said to be in one of its cyclical doldrums at present, clearly not helped by procurement practices that have triggered a race to the bottom, it cannot afford to lose to other sectors this amount and quality of engineering and consulting talent. It has been very heartening to hear this view stressed by so many members.
The D Group enjoyed a highly articulate analysis of the fiscal issues facing the UK (and global) economy caused by multi-nationals, notably in the tech sector, paying low taxes. Lord Lupton, a highly successful investment banker and now Chairman of the Lloyds ’non-ring-fenced’ bank, has carved this out in the House of Lords as his special area of focus. The thorny issues raised by what are usually perfectly legal tax-minimisation strategies, notably those of social fairness vs duties to shareholders were discussed and debated, alongside a range of potential solutions.
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson addressed our CEO Brexit Group. With the DUP’s strong influence both at Westminster and around the key shape of Brexit it was, as HMG progresses into round two with the EU, a timely, determined, excellent and highly persuasive presentation. One would expect nothing less from a man who was the youngest member ever of the Northern Ireland assembly, participated in the negotiation of the Good Friday Agreement, was a key figure in the Confidence & Supply Agreement with the Conservatives and is the DUP’s chief whip.
Charles Farr CMG OBE, Chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee, joined D Group members to explore the little–discussed angle of how business, particularly by adopting highly inclusive training and employment policies that create much more opportunity for the main sources of disaffection, can help address extremism and radicalisation. With an increase in home-grown radicalisation it was a timely reflection amongst all present that interaction between government and business is something that could usefully be moved up business’s agenda, particularly in the formation of apprenticeships, early interaction by business with schools, etc. We will come back to this later in the year.
At BEI the weeks focus was on the engaging topics of Brexit and UK Aid’s pursuit of value for money across their activities, impact on the relationship with Europe Aid and the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI)’s report on DFID’s engagement with its supply chain. As Brexit enters a new phase it was interesting to hear the UK Department for International Development (DFID)’s thinking on managing the transition and new relationship with the EU and its implications on international development work. Suffice to say, many questions remain, there are issues to be resolved, but members were assured that DFID were working hard to ensure continuity that would support British businesses working in this space.
An update from ICAI on the first part of a review on “Achieving value for money through procurement” DFID’s approach to its supplier market was enlightening. The review rated DFID’s efforts as Amber/Green with 3 of the 4 recommendations accepted by DFID and the fourth partly agreed. The review looked at DFID’s engagement with actual and potential suppliers in order to shape its supply chains and achieve better value for money through its procurement.
We are pleased to announce and invite our members to Palladium’s Positive Impact Summit 2018, Reimagine Strategy, which will welcome ambitious leaders from across the world to consider practical routes to success for companies who recognise that economic and social impact are intrinsically linked. To achieve Positive Impact, a reimaging of how we pursue growth, how we build partnerships and how we unlock capital is required. As a sponsor, our members can enjoy a 15% registration discount using code BEI15.
The coming week sees a bi-laterial event on Turkmenistan known as TUKTIC (as part of BEI’s major increased focus on the CIS states), the International Development Working Group quarterly meeting and an absorbing Korea session with Jane Corbin, having recently reported for Panorama from Korea about the North’s nuclear strategy. While North Korea may not yet be part of our business development strategies this session will undoubtedly provide an informed view on what must be one of the world’s biggest flashpoints of 2018. We look forward to seeing you soon.
Peter O'Kane - Chairman, Strategy International