Nigeria ready for business
It is, indeed, good news that the World Bank in its Ease-of-Doing-Business Report for 2018, indicated that Nigeria improved its position by as many as 24 steps from the 169th slot in 2017 to 145th in 2018. According to the Report, the country is one of the 10 top reformers in the world, meaning that, the improved position resulted from the reforms undertaken by the country. This is highly commendable.
As a sign of the significance of this achievement, a happy President Muhammadu Buhari has appropriately commended the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC), the National Assembly and state governments for “making it easy for people to register their businesses speedily, and obtain licences and approvals from government agencies without unnecessary bureaucratic bottlenecks.” Similarly, an excited Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has stated that “improving the business environment is at the heart of the Buhari administration’s reform agenda,” and has not only welcomed Nigeria’s improved performance but also congratulated all stakeholders who worked to achieve this significant result. President Buhari had initially given an ambitious target of moving up 20 places in the ranking and was therefore justifiable delighted to have exceeded that target.
Of note in this commendable development is that Nigeria did not earn its new position through country-wide reforms. Rather, the World Bank Report points at what only two states, Kano and Lagos did which led to the country’s improved ranking. While Kano “increased transparency by publishing all relevant regulations, fee schedules and pre-application requirements online,” Lagos “made it easier to obtain construction permits by streamlining the process obtaining construction permits and increased transparency by publishing all relevant regulations, fee schedules and pre-application requirements online.” What Kano and Lagos States did therefore were credited to Nigeria and brought about the outcome that is being celebrated. In other words, if the country embarks on more impactful reforms, its position in subsequent assessment would certainly be better than what is being celebrated now.
Sight, however, must not be lost of the fact that Nigeria’s ranking of 145th out of 190 in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report for 2018 should be a reminder that all is yet to be well and that the country still faces the enormous challenge of attaining a prime ranking. It should be clear to all stakeholders, in particular the governments, that what is worth celebrating is not the attained 145th ranking. It is the remarkable forward steps that were accomplished in a single year; the fact that Buhari’s target of scaling 20 steps was exceeded by four steps and that Kano and Lagos states have shown that it is not only the Federal Government that should be looked upon to better the business environment in Nigeria.
Now, imagine the position Nigeria would have occupied if the other states in the country had followed the footsteps of Kano and Lagos. Imagine what would happen if Federal Government and the states undertook serious reforms in their road and other infrastructure. Imagine the great leap that would occur if the issue of corruption was eliminated or drastically reduced both in the public and private sectors; if the era of policy inconsistencies/reversals, multiple taxation and poor access to finance was reversed; civil servants performed their duties diligently; insecurity of life and property was eliminated and the rule of law prevailed in the country. Indeed, as the Report pointedly highlights that a major weak performance area of Nigeria was “access to electricity,” imagine if there had been significant improvement in accessing electricity.
Notwithstanding all of these, the accomplishment so far throws a challenge, which is, attaining a ranking within the first 10 countries out of 190. It may be difficult but certainly not impossible as Nigerians can achieve our aspirations when they diligently work hard towards them.
The most significant factor that ought to continuously motivate and sustain Nigeria’s strive for an environment where business is carried out with ease is the multi-dimensional benefits that accrue therefrom. Some of such benefits include lower business costs, attraction of domestic and foreign investments, lower prices of products and services, improved welfare for the masses, enhanced customer patronage, reduction of unemployment, enhanced economic growth and development, social and economic stability, sustainability and resilience.
If Nigerians appreciate the importance of these benefits and single-mindedly commit themselves to attaining that status, there will be no insurmountable obstacle to reaching the peak. Indeed, if Nigeria expands and strengthens what has been done that took it to scaling 24 steps within a reporting period, there is no doubt that the country can surprise itself. If Nigeria decides that at every World Bank Report period, the country will leap a minimum of 24 steps, by 2020 it would find itself at the top of the ladder. The country must therefore increase its efforts in initiating and implementing impactful reforms across all areas of the economy.
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