Friday, January 07

2011 – the year of transparency?

 

Looking back on my forecast for 2010, I expected a pick-up in activity in the second half of the year; on reflection it may have come earlier than that, and most of our clients have probably breathed  a sigh of relief that the crisis is behind us. Looking forward, I see a good start to 2011, but the big question is whether growth will continue. Most economic forecasts predict a general slowdown in growth. In our part of the world much discussion focuses on whether there will be a bigger eurozone crisis. I suspect that much of that talk comes from people who actually hope for such a crisis. I predict they will be disappointed, even though Greece might be forced out of the system. It won't matter for the Czech Republic. We will continue to benefit from the economic strength of both Germany, and..er..Slovakia. I predict this will be the year that politicians and the CNB are forced to ask themselves why Slovakia is growing twice as fast as his country, and what they can learn from it. Already today the interior ministry has announced it will post all contracts and documents on the internet - inspired by the "Slovak example".

I hope this might be an early example of a trend - both global and local - towards greater transparency and open dealings in public life. Wikileaks has revealed all kinds of things to us that our rulers didn't want us to know, and the world has not ended as a result. In the UK journalists and citizens regularly uncover previously secret facts thanks to the relatively new Freedom of Information Act. In the Czech Republic we see apparently serious discussion among politicians about anti-corruption measures and greater transparency. I am not sure how sincere they are in many cases, but more and more information is leaking out anyway; it is, I hope, an unstoppable tide. An open, transparent environment helps good businesses and good people to flourish.

During the holiday I examined the rise of a UK website group called My Society. It runs a suite of websites which support democracy, and I believe they might have potential here too. One of them, They Work For You helps people find out who their political representatives are, and what they are doing (or not doing). A Czech version of this is already up and running at http://kohovolit.eu/. I'm looking at the potential for another one from My Society's suite, and will write more on this soon.

We can also hope that this fresh wind will benefit the marketing sector too. More transparency in relationships between clients and agencies would be something to aim for in this Year of Transparency.

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