It is on record that Nigeria ranked 146th out of 190 nations on ‘ease of doing business’ recently published by the World Bank, scoring 52.89 out of 100 percentage points. The report basically looked at regulations that enhance business activity in each of the countries and those that constrained it. This score showed an economy’s position to best regulatory practice. The cities studied were Lagos and Kano.
Eleven (11) areas of business regulations were studied in the World Bank report. The areas and the country’s ranking under each area are: Starting a business (120th); Dealing with construction permits (149th); Getting electricity (171st); Registering property (184th); Getting credit (12th); Protecting minority investors (38th); Paying taxes (157th); Trading across borders (182nd); Enforcing contracts (92nd); Resolving insolvency (149th). According to the report, Nigeria made starting a business easier by reducing the time needed to register a company at the corporate affairs commission and introducing an online platform to pay stamp duty. It made getting electricity easier by streamlining its approval process requiring that the distribution companies obtain the right of way on behalf of the customers and by turning on the electricity once the meter is installed. It reduced the time needed to export and import by implementing joint inspections, the Nigerian Integrated Customs Information System Service II (NICIS) electronic system and around the clock operations at Apapa Port. The NICIS II comprises of trade analysis and timely audit of the system and blockage of leakages to enhance revenue collection. The support electronic payment of duty and taxes as well as attachment of electronic certificate and other documents. Nigeria also made enforcing contract easier by issuing new rules.
On the other hand, under registering property, Kano was reported to constrain business by making property registration less transparent as it no longer published the fee schedule online and the list of documents necessary to register a property.
Nigeria was also among the 46 countries that improved across three or more ‘doing business’ topics.
The Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC)’s reforms have helped the nation move up from 170th position in 2015 to 169th position in 2016 and 145th position in 2017. The top three this year were New Zealand, Singapore and Denmark while the only Sub-Saharan African economy country to enter the top twenty was Mauritius. Mauritius was said to have reformed its business environment methodically over the years and has reformed more than once in almost all areas measured by the report.
A lot more needs to be done in order to achieve the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC)’s goal of Nigeria becoming the top 100 place by 2020 and top 50 by 2025.
According to its ‘2018 Making Business Work Report’ it will continue to improve public service delivery and business environment for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). MSMEs account for over 90% of firms worldwide and play a critical role in the development of economies around the world creating jobs and making substantial contribution to overall GDP. In Nigeria, MSMEs account for more than 90% of all registered business. They provide about 84% of jobs and contribute just under 50% of GDP to the economy. These businesses face a lot of challenges that hinder their ability to grow and perform optimally such as poor infrastructure, a challenging regulatory environment and corruption.
PEBEC, among other agendas, intends to focus primarily on regulators and sign the omnibus bill on business facilitation. The regulators should not serve as inhibitors to doing business but to promote the practice of their duties as productive business facilitators. The omnibus bill is a bill that is designed to institutionalize business reforms and remove irritants that serve as bottlenecks for these reforms. The bill will bring about new provisions that will accelerate bold reforms. They intend to coordinate a collaborative process across Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), National Assembly and the private sector to ensure the enactment of a relevant omnibus bill.
Put all of these alongside good fiscal and monetary policy implementation and a continuous and stable drive towards development as a whole and we will see ourselves achieving the PEBEC goal and even surpassing it. As we prepare for the general elections ahead, the incoming government, whoever it may be, must see to it that this goal is not lost.
Furthermore, let us also not see it as just achieving a ranking but through this deepen economic development and ensure that the dividends of democracy are felt by everyone especially the common business man who may not really care about a ranking but that his business objectives of excellent customer service delivery, profit maximization and cost minimization and growth are met.