The Honourable Christian Paradis, Senior Vice-President, Strategic Development at GardaWorld Protective Services, was invited to moderate a roundtable discussion with six international speakers on June 13 at the Conference of Montreal, the 22nd edition of the International Forum of the Americas. The session on long-term investment and sustainable economic growth was at the heart of the overall topic of the conference: “Shaping a new era of prosperity”.
Christian Paradis was Member of the Parliament of Canada for the Mégantic-L’Érable from 2006 to 2015. He was also a Federal Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Industry and International Development, Natural Resources and Francophonie between 2007 and 2015. Over the last years, he could see and appreciate the importance of engaging in long-term investments to help companies pursue important strategic initiatives and more importantly foster sustainable economic growth for societies around the world.
Fiona Reynolds, Managing Director at the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment (UNPRI), stated we currently live dramatic changes that question the sustainability of our financial system. “The growing and aging population is using resources in a way that is completely unsustainable, the world is divided into two (1% of the population owns 50% of the global wealth), and disruptive technologies change the way we do business”, she said. To achieve its mission to achieve a sustainable global financial system, the UNPRI encourages the adoption of six principles that promote good governance, integrity and accountability.
Yves-Thomas Dorval, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Quebec Employers Council (CPQ), talked about the strategic role of investors in the past, present and future years. Governments, companies and investors all used to invest in short-term yields, leading to the financial crisis of 2008. In today’s world, we focus on risk management, debt control and austerity programs. In the future, stakeholders must incorporate long-term environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria and the investment lifecycle into their decision-making process.
Bernard Spitz, President of the French Federation of Insurance Companies (FFSA), explained some contradictions in the current economic context in Europe. According to him, long-term insurers should, in theory, be prone to investing in an economy where interest rates are low and the need for infrastructures is high. However, the regulations in place, especially Solvency II, as well as taxation and political instability, are not favourable for long-term investments and sustainable growth.
Enrique Ochoa Reza, Director General of the Federal Electric Commission (CFE), presented on the energy reform in Mexico that now allows private sector participation in the generation and sale of electricity. The monopolistic state of PEMEX for many years had proven its limits especially in terms of infrastructure. Today, the open market has not only generated long-term investment in energy infrastructures and renewable energies, but it has also create jobs and reduced the electricity bill of millions of citizens.
Francis Gatare, Chief Executive Officer of the Rwanda Development Board, also provided an optimistic and inspiring example to the audience. In Rwanda, public-private partnerships have allowed massive investments in education, health, infrastructure and nutrition in recent years. Together, partners both share value and mitigate risks. The GDP of the country is positively correlated to its long-term investments, along with demographic metrics such as life expectancy. Peace and confidence in the country and its institutions have been key to sustain these strategic initiatives.
Last but not least, Ridha Ben Mosbah, Economic Advisor of the Tunisian government, talked about the democratic transition in the country, the terrorist attacks in 2015, and the need to implement emergency measures at all levels very quickly. These challenges have not prevented the government from working on an economic and social plan to answer the concerns of the Tunisian population in the long run. Details of this RISE plan – Road To Inclusion, Sustainability And Efficiency – will be announced in Tunis in November.