The importance of stakeholder consultation is increasing globally and Eswatini cannot live in isolation.[…]
The importance of stakeholder consultation is increasing globally and Eswatini cannot live in isolation. Consultations give people in all walks of life a chance to get involved in the work of government. Stakeholder Consultation is an important part of the policy-making process; that is to say that, before any policy is gazetted it is critical for the government to engage relative stakeholders. As economies are becoming increasingly competitive, there is increasing need for Private Sector players to engage in policy development.
Who is a Stakeholder?
By definition a stakeholder is a person, a group or an organization that must be taken into account by policy makers before any policy decisions are made. This is an individual who can affect or be affected either positively or negatively by a policy reform. A few examples of stakeholders are shareholders, trade unions, communities and customers. Every Swazi Citizen has the right to have their voice and concerns heard, they have the right to influence policy and Government decisions. The right to be stakeholders and participate in decision making is guaranteed by the Constitution of Swaziland.
Benefits of Effective Public Engagement
When done well, public engagement can have a number of advantages for policymaking, including strengthening the democratic legitimacy of policy, by ensuring that citizens are able to take and influence the decisions that affect their lives.
The practice also increases the accountability of government, by ensuring that citizens are aware and can respond to the decisions that government takes.
When the public is involved in decision making the quality of policy is improved, by ensuring as broad a range of knowledge, views and values as possible are present in the process and ensuring that policy goes with the grain of public values.
Current Process of Consultation
Although considerable lip-service is given to the importance of broad-based Private Sector participation and consideration of the Private Sector as a key stakeholder in the new economic reform process, the realization of that objective has been neither automatic nor simple. The private sector itself has a key interest in taking a prominent role in the development of policies that affect it, but it also needs opportunities and the means to provide input.
The current consultation process used by the Government is not always consistent or designed with implementation in mind; it can be argued that in some cases the consultation is done as a formality. Shortcomings of the current approach include:
- Policy is drawn up on the basis of a range of inputs that is too narrow;
- Policy is not subject to sufficient external challenge before it is announced;
- The policy development process, and the evidence and data underlying it, is insufficiently transparent;
- Policy insufficiently reflects the reality experienced by citizens; and
- Policy is often developed with insufficient input from those who will have to implement it.
Proposed Process of Consultation
An ideal consultation process should involve comprehensive stakeholder participation and it should provide a feedback mechanism to the stakeholders after policy comments and submissions. Highlighted below is the suggested method that may be followed during stakeholder consultations.
- Prior to any discussions, all affected stakeholders should be furnished with the relevant documents beforehand to adequately familiarise themselves with the issue at hand to enable meaningful contributions;
- During the initial meeting, comments from all stakeholders should be obtained, presented, discussed and noted.
- Thereafter, stakeholders should be allowed adequate time of at least their written comments.
- A validation meeting of Stakeholders should be convened, wherein the agency responsible leads discussions and presents the final draft of the legislation. In that process the comments submitted by stakeholders will be discussed and any input and comments excluded be highlighted and valid reasons for the omission if any, be presented and discussed as part of the validation process.
The FSE&CC believes that to enable the private sector to engage in urban planning, public policy and development objectives, the public sector may:
- Consider incentives that encourage private sector participation. World Bank research suggests legal and regulatory reform is necessary to support more sustainable economic growth and enhance the private sector’s impact.
- Consider arrangements beyond PPPs to meet its financial needs (e.g. fiscal decentralisation, issuing municipal bonds, etc.) and non-financial obligations (improving service provision through better management of operating systems, reducing distribution and transmission costs, reducing water and electricity theft by informal network providers, combating corruption, promoting e-governance, etc.).
- Implement specific policy instruments and interventions that complement, coordinate and collaborate with the private sector rather than compete against it.
Whilst, the FSE&CC acknowledges that multiple challenges of private sector involvement in development persist. The private sector is no doubt a major actor for creating economic opportunities for people living in poverty, through investment, generating employment, creating innovation and generating revenue for social sectors. To unlock the full potential of Private Sector contribution to economic activity in the country, the policy development must be fully participatory and transparent.