Ken McHattie CA: Let’s now hear the voice of business

Ken McHattie CA, ICAS President
By Ken McHattie CA, ICAS President

15 June 2016

ICAS President Ken McHattie CA wonders why business has been so marginalised in so many recent political tussles around the world.

Many years ago Winston Churchill observed: “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

I wonder whether, in mid-2016, CAs in the US, Australia and across the UK would agree as they try to assess the implications of the current deluge of democratic processes.

From Sydney to Sidcup to Seattle, fevered campaigning has been taking place in a global outbreak of battles at the ballot box.

This month's edition of The CA takes a look at our members in the US, as they witness first hand a truly remarkable presidential contest which seems likely to see Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton fight it out for the White House; and at the referendum over the UK’s membership of the European Union, where David Cameron and Boris Johnson lead the competing arguments in the run-up to the poll next week.

CAs in Australia have their own moment in the spotlight as prime minister Malcolm Turnbull seeks another mandate after only eight months in post, with polling day set for 2 July. “Expect madness,” was the grim warning from a senior CA in Sydney.

Almost no time or news space is devoted to debates on policies that might create a better climate for business, encourage more entrepreneurs, grow social enterprises or help create the leaders who might change our economic futures.

In Scotland, politicians and the public are mulling over parliamentary elections, which, although surprisingly low key, were livened up by some unexpected results with potentially significant consequences.

The result of these, and other, contests will, in one way or another, affect most of our members around the world.

But, amid the sound and fury of democracy in action, the voice of business has been largely silent. Business is, apparently, an unwelcome bystander in these processes.

Almost no time or news space is devoted to debates on policies that might create a better climate for business, encourage more entrepreneurs, grow social enterprises or help create the leaders who might change our economic futures. Instead, the common thread through much current political discourse is how best to spend public money, with political rivals vying to outbid each other with yet more seductive “freebies” (which are, of course, nothing of the sort) and uncosted pledges.

When the dust settles on the ballot papers in the US, Australia, the UK and Scotland we must get back to business. Putting in place the right conditions for economic growth and wealth creation must be given a higher priority right across the political spectrum. Without sympathetic policies to help foster these aims, we will all be poorer in the long term.

While I live in hope that politicians, the public and the media will again come to see business as their best tax-paying friends, I must also acknowledge that business needs to be better at making the case and demonstrating that we are doing everything we can to earn and build public trust in what we do. Ideas on how to achieve this should be emailed to me post haste…

Finally, and unfortunately, it is hard not to be concerned with the tone of much of the debate taking place, particularly in the UK and the US. Blaming migrants for every problem we face is no better and no more accurate than blaming the rich. We badly need leaders who are able to articulate and deliver a vision of how to take forward the liberal democratic and economic values that underpin our societies. Let’s hope that the current democratic skirmishes can at least start that process.

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  • CA Magazine
  • Opinion

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