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Advocacy Organizations Must Play a Long Game

Many years ago, I was reporting on a meeting where an award-winning businessman proclaimed that lobbying by chambers of commerce did not work. Given that he was speaking as guest of honor at the annual meeting of one of the international chambers of commerce, it was not a message that was universally well received.

He left the meeting before I could speak to him, and then did not return my calls, so I never had the chance to clarify his exact intention. The annual meetings of chambers are not always the most thrilling of events, so perhaps he merely intended to be provocative. Perhaps what he actually meant is that lobbying does not bring about quick results. 

What is beyond doubt is that chambers of commerce consider their advocacy work to be among the most important roles they play. And central to that is the need to play a long game. I’m sure it is true of all the chambers, but I do know that the two largest bodies, the American and German, are careful to pursue cooperative relationships with the government of the day, precisely because they do not expect to achieve overnight success. 

If a government, any government, is to listen to the advice proffered by the business world (and I have yet to meet a business person who does not think he or she has something of value to tell those in government, at least where it concerns the field of their own business), it has to be built on a basis of trust and shared experience. In one sense, at least, the eight-year period of Fidesz government from 2010 has made that easier.

As AmCham President Farkas Bársony makes clear in our interview with him and CEO Írisz Lippai-Nagy on page 7, successful advocacy can take a long time indeed. The current government introduced a 9% corporate income tax rate 13 years after the American chamber first suggested it. AmCham did not give up when it was initially rebuffed, but continued to press the issue, and in doing so was praised for being a “persevering partner, which had consistently urged such a reduction”. 

While some governments may be seen as being more pro-business than others, that distinction is not of much help to the chambers once the elections are over, the people have spoken and a government elected. At that stage business organizations and advocacy groups must deal with the party in power. Fidesz built a reputation for passing laws in a hurry – initially often without doing much in the way of consulting – but being slow to reconsider them. It was a year before the deeply unpopular Sunday shopping ban was lifted. 

The only time I recall it moving quickly happened, ironically, before it had passed a law, back in October 2014 when a proposed internet tax prompted mass demonstrations. Hungary’s government was painted as being out of touch, but the proposed law was dropped, and Fidesz is now something of an internet evangelist. That’s a long way from where it started, but then governing, just as with advocacy, is a long game indeed.

Robin Marshall

Editor-in-chief

In the Book of Lists 2017-2018, some of the data of Gosselin Mobility Budapest Kft. was not printed correctly in the list of international moving companies. The correct data is the following:

Total net revenue in 2016 (HUF mln): 212

Top local executives: Stephan Joseph Jacques Alphonse Marie Geurts, and Zsolt Sárándi

Address: 1094 Budapest, Liliom utca 1/b

The editorial staff of the Book of Lists apologizes for the error.