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Consultant și analist de risc politic, CEO Smartlink, fost Policy Manager la Google Bruxelles

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Political mentality versus business mentality, cooperation or conflict in 2019?

The 114 Emergency Ordinance (OUG) is just the latest episode of the growing tension between the private and political sector. The political-business relationship has passed over time through various stages, from coexistence to co-operation and conflict.
editorial radu magdin_ok

As long as there has been a concrete and coherent process of communication and mutual respect, with this process taking on the form of the Coalition for Romania’s Development (CDR) in its institutionalized version, pride and divergent interests have often been harmonized and resulted in better laws, profits, as well as higher budget receipts. We are currently living in strange times, when it would seem, if we look at public positions, that there is no “win-win” option, but only “win-lose” frustrated versions: it seems like the “you have profits and we have more money for the budget” option does not work anymore.

The growing problems between political and private sectors relate to communication, but also to a different mentality and to the obvious lack of intermediaries who understand both worlds and can put everyone around the table, so that they no longer communicate in an aggressive or passive-aggressive manner, only through the press: some announcing fast-track measures in the evening on TV, others protesting the next day, at an industrial or more general associative level.

 

The fundamental difference in the coming months, and the de facto one in the next two years, will be made by visionaries’ capacity, both in the political and business area, to understand and promote a break, rethink and reset from the growing spiral of conflict communication. Here we will need a rethinking of the CDR as a mutually accepted format of institutionalized dialogue, but also of a growing understanding on both sides of the mentality “on the other side”.

For example, the business environment accounts for over 80% of gross domestic product; it understands that politics is “fun”, but it does not understand why we have to make fun of business, it needs predictability and legislative stability. Companies signal the increasing need for workforce (practically, there are jobs, but there are not enough qualified or willing workers) and try to conceive what is essential for business and make at least a medium-term projection. Business is discreet, except when it feels like it is demonized or when it feels the need to boast discreetly through CSR action.

It believes in meritocracy, though it understands that backstage influence is an extra advantage in a competition between two people of similar skill. It is ready to pay, but not to be robbed, and it does not accept anymore the idea that we could turn back the clock too much in terms of public-private power game.

 

Political mentality is more tactical, takes battles one at a time (and six months is a long time in politics) and is now preparing four big battles, each six months: European, presidential, local and parliamentary elections. It looks at money in the form of budget and popularity possibilities: I have money, I give it away, and maybe it comes back as votes. It promotes loyalists in state-owned companies’ boards, wanting more money, but not necessarily wanting to kill the golden goose, although it may find that it will lose its feathers when corporate governance will no longer be the norm in the cottage.

At the same time, it no longer accepts – yes, we live in patriotic political times but also direct as style – the previous rules of the game, if it feels that it can gain budget from market re-adjustment. It can charge any industry with greed, if the latter is caught on the wrong foot, and sees that it works in polls. The issue of banks, for example, is not just about any appetite of the state for money, but also Romanians’ sentiment towards them, proved in surveys: perhaps OUG 114 is not a great public policy, but it is a good one in polls, at least against banks, as the new enemy of the people.

Another interesting thing: in politics you do not mind someone good in the team, but fidelity beats meritocracy, and often you do not have the patience to cultivate the best-prepared ones, because not even they have appetite for declining political standards.

 

What do we do, starting from the current situation, which is not at all brilliant? The challenge for the next two years will be how to move towards cooperation more than towards conflict, regarding the country’s economic destiny. If everybody stands still and does not do anything, the economy goes down, and the only solution is to rearrange the table and the reciprocal adjustment of style, for things to work.

First of all, it would be good for the two sides to communicate directly, not just through the press, thus avoiding misunderstandings and understanding each other’s goals, and then looking for the optimal alternatives for their harmonization. Perhaps there is more room for win-win situations than it seems if a discussion goes in good faith and clearly with more style.

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