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Report on the Atlas Network “Leveraging Indices for Free Enterprise” Workshop in Madrid

As part of our commitment to contribute to the growth of the private sector, we are running a project in collaboration with the ATLAS Network whose object is to proffer policy recommendations to Government regarding starting a business and paying taxes in Ghana. As part of the project, a workshop was recently organised in Madrid (Spain) by the ATLAS Network to equip the project managers with the needed skills in order to effectively carry out their tasks. See full report below. ↓

Reported by Isidore Kpotufe | IMANI Press


28 – 30 March 2016


The workshop, organized from 28 – 30 March 2016 by the Atlas Network, forms part of its commitment to helping Managers of the Leveraging Indices for Free Enterprise (LIFE) project with the skills and expertise needed in order to meet the project’s goals. The workshop afforded participants the opportunity to interact with leading policy experts from different spheres of life: Government, Civil Society and International Development.


The workshop was attended by 21 people – 15 being representatives of beneficiary organisations of the Atlas Network LIFE project – and 6 being policy experts (coaches). Participants and coaches came from different continents, including Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas


The workshop consisted of individual presentations, group presentations, policy working groups, case study of reform presentations and individual worktime.


Presentations at the workshop focused on how think tanks can influence and subsequently change public policy, when and why policy reforms are needed and how to sustain the results of policy reforms. It was noted that in order to arrive at a specific policy reform result, one needs to work out why and how the reform can be implemented. Indeed, one needs to be precise about the policy objective and the timing. A wrong timing can affect the results and most probably the impacts of the reform. To undertake any policy reform initiative, there is the need to have a set of indicators to serve as a guidance throughout the process. Having sound indicators will mean being able to answer the following questions:

  • How does the reform work? What is the mechanism?
  • What will the impacts of the reform be? What is the cost of not implementing the reform?
  • How long will those impacts take to materialise?
  • How can the reforms manage and adapt to the transition?
  • Who will support those new reforms? Who will oppose them?
  • How can they overcome any opposition? What other options are there besides implementing the reforms?

Mr. Nika Gilauri, Head of Bank of Georgia Holdings, in Istanbul, noted in his presentation that in order for think tanks to make impact and influence policy, they need to generate lots of media-friendly content to keep up the pressure, undertake mass initiatives (campaigns) such as grassroots events, stunts, and political engagements.

Dr. Juan Jose Daboub, former minister of finance of El Salvador, in his presentation on the topic “El Salvador’s reform process: Lessons learned” posited that it takes sound public policy to development a nation and not natural resources. He noted that the most important resource of a country is its people. He explained how sound public policy reforms changed his country. In fact, before his coming into office as Finance Minister in 1992, 45% of the population was extremely poor, 50% without access to public services and the country had no credibility. During the 1978-1992 period, the country recorded high debt, low growth, and high unemployment rate. Indeed, during that same period, corruption was on the rise, it took citizens 5 years to obtain a phone; as a result over 22% of the able population migrated to other countries where opportunities were available. But thanks to reforms that allowed people to take their destiny into their own hands, that offered opportunities but not hand-outs, the trends were reversed. Dr. Juan implemented reforms that opened up economy, strengthened Sate institutions, decentralised public administration, privatised some sectors of the economy as a means, not an end, engendered competition and reduced excessive State regulation. He acknowledged that the Market economy will always be imperfect, but it’s far better than a perfect bureaucracy.

The results of his reforms included the following:

  • 19% extreme poverty as compared to 45% previously,
  • 100% access to public services as compared to 50% previously,
  • 150% phone penetration into the economy
  • Low Debt/GDP
  • Higher Growth
  • Corruption decreased significantly
  • Unemployment and underemployment went down

IMANI’s Participation

Isidore Kpotufe, who currently manages the LIFE Project at IMANI made a number of contributions at the workshop. Speaking on the challenges of the implementation of the LIFE project in Ghana, he said politicians in Africa and for that matter in Ghana, prefer to raise revenue the lazy way. He noted that there are no incentives for African Governments to develop the necessary infrastructure base that will enable the State to raise as much revenue from taxes as possible. He said the inability of governments to raise the needed revenue through an efficient tax system is a time bomb for Africa’s development.   He held the view that it’s important to demystify business registration in Ghana; and this can only be done though a simple and a technology-empowered registration process. He mentioned that the complexity of the business registration process and the ineffectiveness of the tax system are the factors responsible for the informal nature of Ghana’s economy. He emphasised that ordinary people must be able to register their business without the assistance of any third party and at a low cost, which is not the case in Ghana. Isidore also suggested that the existence of a fiscal responsibility law with the oversight of an independent institution, having a legal backing could help shape how government uses revenue obtained through taxes.

He advanced that the notable work of IMANI within the private sector has led to the appointment of its CEO, Franklin Cudjoe,  to the Users Committee of the Commercial Court of Ghana. He explained that the Users Committee advises the Commercial Court of Ghana on private sector related issues.

He emphasised that IMANI was re-adjusting its business plan for the implementation of the LIFE Project in order to surmount emerging challenges.


The workshop was a valuable experience for participants and coaches alike given the depth of knowledge acquired throughout its entire duration. Participants left the event grounds with the confidence of being able to make impacts in their respective areas and countries.

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