The grand challenges of our times – be it income inequality, climate change, technology disruptions, or intensifying backlash to globalization – need urgent collaborative responses and actions. Both the public and private sectors need to work together if we are to make meaningful progress. We need organizations across industries and sectors, including businesses, governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society, to work collaboratively. Yet too often, efforts to address these new challenges come from siloed interests and perspectives.
The ESSEC Biz-Gov Forum creates a dialogue among the different groups to address some of the big issues of the day. The inaugural session was successfully held on 28 November 2019 at the ESSEC Asia-Pacific campus. For the first time, ESSEC - a leading global business school with French roots - convened decision-makers across the board to discuss contemporary issues of concern for the public and private sectors in Singapore and beyond. The speakers and attendees represented all spectrums of society, including academia, businesses and enterprises, government, NGO, and inter-governmental organizations (IGO).
Highlighting the importance of greater dialogue between stakeholders, Srividya Jandhyala, Associate Professor of Management at ESSEC, said, “Given the global trade uncertainties and policy volatilities, we think there is no better time than now to start a platform for conversations. Through the Biz-Gov Forum, we hope to bring together players in academia, government, international organizations, and business to create a collaborative environment – to ask questions, find common ground, and co-create solutions to some of the most pressing issues of our times.”
The inaugural ESSEC Biz-Gov Forum opened with a keynote by a government representative who spoke about the importance of multilateralism, economic cooperation, and people-to-people exchanges. This was followed by a keynote by a speaker from an international financial institution, who talked about the complex web of economic and regulatory obstacles in decarbonizing the energy and transport industries.
Following the keynotes, the Biz-Gov Forum hosted four panels which delved into emerging trends and phenomena in the domains of Finance, Infrastructure, Technology, and Diplomacy.
Balancing innovation and regulation in Fintech
Representatives from fintech companies and regulation councils presented their views on how regulators and fintech players could work hand-in-hand to encourage innovation and competition whilst ensuring maximum protection for consumers and employees. When it comes to regulating alternative forms of assets, such as cryptocurrencies, panelists examined the relative merits of industry-driven approaches, consultative process for rule setting, and the formation of independent industry regulation councils to mediate consumer disputes.
When mega infrastructure relies on a harmonious marriage
The infrastructure panel focused on new modes of public service delivery through private sector involvement. Mega infrastructure projects, such as the construction of roads, public transport systems, and public sports and performing arts facilities, rely upon resources from both private and public actors and the formation of private-public partnerships (PPP). However, the first roadblock is often getting the private and public sectors to appreciate their differences. Helping private and public sector actors understand and respect their priorities is therefore fundamental to a successful partnership, which should begin from a place of mutual trust.
Technology and ethics: the perennial debate
Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain may well cascade down the chains of services and production. But there are many unaddressed questions related to the regulation and ethics of these technologies. For example, questions of accountability and liability for AI informed decisions, the re-negotiation of boundaries between technology and public policy actors, and legal checks and balances against big tech players. To address these issues, experts on the technology panel shared their views on the need for changing modes of governance.
High and low diplomacy both necessary
Finally, how could diplomacy, a longstanding instrument of foreign relations, evolve with changing times? The panelists argued that in the era where business and politics have become more intertwined, diplomatic functions should realize the importance of engaging more with business associations. This also means that the traditional closed-loop of “high-level” diplomacy should be supplemented with more public engagement. One example shared by participants was utilizing new tools like social media to engage with younger audiences.
The inaugural ESSEC Biz-Gov Forum was attended by 50 speakers and attendees from Singapore. “As scholars in Political Economy, we find it deeply rewarding to interact with industry practitioners and policy communities in Singapore and the region. The inaugural Forum attested to the power of dialogue in enabling cross-fertilization of ideas,” shared Jamus Lim, Associate Professor of Economics at ESSEC.
“In the years ahead, firms will be forced to re-evaluate many long-standing assumptions about the conduct of business. Governments too will face increasing pressure to engage in more extensive market regulation than before. We look forward to continuing this discussion in the next edition of the Biz-Gov Forum in 2020.”
For more information, you may visit the event site HERE.