Business and politics are two of the oldest human endeavours, and it is hardly surprising how intertwined they are. The governance of men requires much of the same skills as operating a business. Business enables domestic governance, as well as diplomacy; as the buying and selling of goods is essential to human existence, so would control of business, by deduction, directly correlate to power over men. Business is thus a powerful motivator to and from action. However, by virtue of its great influence, those in power might not labour in the interest of the state, but in their own. Nevertheless, I am of the opinion that business is central to politics.



Business is a conflict of interest in governance, as politicians may prioritise profit motive at the expense of national interest.

This is a classic example of the principal-agent dilemma, where the agent(politician) may not act in the best interests of the principal (the voters).

Donald Trump’s extensive, international business holdings mean he will have to make decisions as leader of the US that also affect his businesses. As head of the executive branch and a business owner, he has the ability to influence both US policy and government agencies to benefit his bottom line.

For example, the Secret Service pays the Trump Organisation for the space occupied in Trump owned properties, as well as the costs of flights when they render protective services to his family as they conduct their business. Tax payers monies trickle into Trump coffers, money which could have been channelled into welfare programs.

Another instance of Trump benefiting from policy decisions is the Dakota Access Pipeline. Trump signed an executive order paving the way for pipeline construction, which was promised to help the energy industry. However, as a major stakeholder, he stands to gain heavily from its construction. Hence, it is highly possible that he acted not to create jobs in the industry, but to line his own pockets. Furthermore, the pipeline’s construction and operation has been decried by environmental pundits over impacts to wildlife conservation and preservation, as well as water and air quality, which will be to the detriment of Americans.

Hence, business in politics leads to a very real possibility of leadership to act on ulterior motives, constituting a failure of leadership.


Business fundamentals are necessary for good governance. Fiscal prudence is the hallmark of a capable statesman, who will be able to manage the finances of the country.

For that reason, the requirements for Presidency in Singapore have been elevated to being a senior executive of a company with S$500 million in shareholder equity. The rationale behind the change in qualifying criteria is to reflect the change in Singapore’s current commercial landscape, and the corresponding complexity of the powers and responsibilities of the President. The President needs to be a person of requisite experience and talent to discharge the President’s custodial role over the reserves. A senior executive involved in the day-to-day operations of such a company would certainly have the financial acumen to grapple with the immense scale of financial decisions, such as in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis in 2008 when President S R Nathan presided over and approved the S$150 billion guarantee on all bank deposits in Singapore.

Hence, businesspersons in politics would be intimately familiar with fiscal affairs of state, and would be best suited for positions concerning fiscal matters.


Businesses play an important role in the legislative and executive function of governments.

Governments may not have sufficient expertise as they approach things from the perspective of regulators and policymakers. Hence, the government works closely with the private sector to understand the nature of problems and their root causes. For example, the government relies on the human resource departments of firms to understand reasons for worsening unemployment, which leads to retraining programmes for older workers or fundamental changes in education policy to focus on knowledge skills like coding. Without bilateral communication, policymakers would essentially be underequipped to tackle the problem of unemployment.

Furthermore, since governments are not profit motivated, they may operate with significant overhead costs. This leads to wastage of resources, which could be eliminated through public-private partnerships. An example of a public private partnership is the UK railway system, where the government contracts out operations and maintenance of various UK train lines to the private sector. The contract goes to the highest bidder who will provide an agreed upon level of service at lowest cost. The past few decades have seen an increasing trend towards public-private partnerships, most notably in recent weeks Tesla’s contract with the Puerto Rican authorities to upgrade the islands power grid as the earthquake wrecked its electricity distribution networks.

Hence, businesses are integral to the function of governments and enable greater efficacy in politics. 


Business is indispensable to foreign relations efforts and diplomacy.

Foreign direct investment, trade and exchange rates are the basic building blocks of overseas business. Politicians therefore wield business as a diplomatic tool to strengthen bilateral, regional and international ties. For instance, China pursues its One Belt One Road development policy to emerge as the dominant trading partner in the region, underlining China’s push to take a larger role in global affairs. At the same time, the restriction of trade and investments are a way to put pressure on rogue states, to cripple their economy and make them more amenable. Foreign business can boost economic growth, lift millions out of poverty and raise standards of living, yet what business giveth, lack of business taketh away. The embargoes imposed on Iran are examples of successful trade embargoes, which decimated Iran’s economy, ultimately resulting in Iran giving up the weaponisation of its nuclear program, achieving the political goal of the wider international community. Business is thus a major component in a country’s political arsenal when dealing with other countries.

In conclusion, business is central to politics.