On Wednesday, the news that Nigeria has moved from 146th position in 2019 to 131th position for the year 2020 on the Ease of Doing Business Report, a global business enabling environment report of the World Bank, excited the Federal Government, while the Nigerian business community and other nationals with the investment interest were uncomfortable with the ranking pace. Since the release of the report that measures regulations across 190 economies in 12 business regulatory areas to assess the business environment in each economy, counter and alternative celebration have been recorded across the country.
According to the report, New Zealand (with a score of 86.8 out of 100), Singapore (86.2), Hong Kong SAR, China (85.3), Denmark (85.3), the Republic of Korea (84), the United States (84), Georgia (83.7), the United Kingdom (83.5), Norway (82.6), and Sweden (82) are the top 10 best places in the world to do business.
While acknowledging this, the report also identifies economies that made a number of significant reforms that impacted their ranking pace for 2020. Some of these countries are from the developing continents. The report notes that Nigeria and Togo from Africa made significant reforms in the last one year. Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Kuwait, China and India were also found as the improved economies. Singlehanded, the report points out Nigeria’s reform on contract enforcement, which enhanced the quality of judicial processes as one of the core factors contributing to the country’s improvement.
Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, and other government officials who have direct links with the enabling business environment creation in the country have been the vanguards of the celebration of the improvement in relation with the government decisive decisions and policies in the last one year on the provision of enabling environment for businesses to thrive.
On his verified Twitter handle, President Buhari tweets “Nigeria’s 15-place rise on the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Index is welcome news. We are now ranked 131st, from the 146th last year; and up 39 places since 2016, when we established the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC). Our goal is a Top 70 position by 2023.”
Among the government officials, since 2016, the Nigerian government under the leadership of the President has been removing constraints preventing businesses to operate effectively. According to them, the government has been able to cut down the time it takes to register a business, provide new grid connections for electricity and upgrading election systems for imports and exports. To them, these actions, among others represent the government’s commitment to realise the projections of the economic growth as contained in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP 2017-2020), which is striving to deliver sustainable economic growth in Nigeria by restoring growth, investing in our people, and building a competitive economy.
Though, some business leaders believe that the ranking truly represents the expected results of the government’s reforms. For instance, the introduction of visa on arrival has been described as a simple policy that changed some sectors. On the contrary, many business executives and citizens do not believe that it is easier to do business in the country. The argument has been that there are many counterproductive policies from the government, crippling business operations and revenue generation. The excesses of the regulatory agencies, imposition of more taxes, closure of the borderlands, lack of social dialogue promotion and continuous engagement with the organized private sector among others remain the stumbling blocks on the road to the ideal enabling business environment, which requires ‘ideal celebration’ when they are achieved.
From the non-business leaders, the disagreement on whether the ranking should be celebrated or not is a pointer that Nigerian government and public officials are a facing legitimacy deficit test. It appears that the business community does not align with the policies and reforms initiated by the government on the ease of doing business improvement.
In a recent interview with the Infoprations, Femi Adefila, a Communications Expert and Chief Executive Officer of a Radio Station in South-West region, said: “Since socioeconomic activities of government is about the people, the citizens, they should therefore be central to policy formulation and execution. If a bottom up policy is entrenched by government, people will have a sense of belonging and it will own policies. This will lead to better policy success.”
Professor Ndubuisi Ekekwe and other eminent entrepreneurs-cum-scholars have also reiterated the need for the adequate and appropriate reforms in the procurement processes and tax system in the country. They made the submission during the Federal University of Technology, Owerri 2019’s Alumni Biennial Conference held at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Lagos on 24th, October, 2019.