Ease of Doing Business: FG sets up task team, targets 50th position by 2019
The Federal Government may have taken the advice of the European Union (EU) and has started the process of setting up an inter-agency task team to drive up Nigeria on World Bank’s ‘Ease of Doing Business’ ranking from 2017.
The EU ambassador to Nigeria and head of delegation to ECOWAS, Michel Arrion, had twice in Port Harcourt, under the auspices of the Rivers Entrepreneurs and Investors Forum (REIF), advised Nigeria to set up a task force to force its way up on the ‘Ease of Doing Business’ ranking done by both the World Bank and World Economic Forum.
The government now says it wants to move up to at least the 50th position from the present 169 out of 189 countries always ranked.
Jumoke Oluwole, special assistant to the President, attached to the Vice President’s office, who revealed this in Onne, near Port Harcourt, Rivers State, at the weekend, said President Muhammadu Buhari totally rejected Nigeria’s low ranking in the World Bank index.
Oluwole, who made a presentation at the two-day retreat for ministries and agencies in the trade and industry sector organised by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), said the country must take the task serious annually until it ranked 50 in 2019.
Explaining the reason for 2019 as the benchmark, Oluwole said it was the year President Buhari’s term would end, saying there would also be a presidential level panel to oversee the work of the inter-agency task team coordinated by the office of the Vice President, but driven by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment (MITI).
Speaking at the retreat chaired by Okechukwu Enelamah, minister of industry, trade and investment, she set up groups from the CEOs of MDAs who identified and immediately submitted all the agencies and bodies that had anything to do in the areas of doing business whose actions could delay or accelerate business transactions in Nigeria.
She extracted the raked areas for attention, such as dealing with construction, power, property registration; starting a business, paying taxes, trading across borders, and getting credit, enforcing contracts, protecting minority investors, etc. She said “the MITI would have the responsibility to drive the process, monitor the papers, empathise with those with complaints, resolve disputes, decide who is monitoring things and what each person would do in the process.”
She said the government had selected some countries closer study and collaborations realising that other countries were also doing something as Arrion had warned that other countries usually set up task forces to fight their ranking upwards and that this was what foreign investors looked at before taking investment decisions.
She said the think-tank in the VP’s office had chosen Singapore for study because it is ranked number one and Peru because it is presently ranked 50th, the position Nigeria wants to move to in 2019. Others countries of interest to Nigeria she named as Rwanda (number one in Africa but 62nd in the world), Mauritius (being in top 50 in the world), South Africa, Morocco, and Zambia as top countries in Africa. “We want to know what they did to get there and what they are doing now”, she stated.
She warned that Nigeria was competing even for her local investors because some were moving to Ghana, Rwanda, etc. “There is urgent need for total change of perception in how people do business in Nigeria. We want to change this completely from 169 out of 189”.
The federal government has already identified the major cause of bad ranking, pinning it to “internal governance roadblocks, lack of courage to confront realities, etc”.
Oluwole called for suggestions in the highly interactive presentation and got tips such as, “What can we do? We must start a culture of good behaviour, change the perception, do slogans to show that we are good and show how we do good things too. Let us stop excuses on why we cannot do a thing; define the steps, act on it; even if we reduce tariffs, there are illegal levies”.
She said the team was developing a comprehensive approach, analysis of the root causes, proposing reforms, monitoring implementation, communicating with stakeholders, set targets, force compliance, (one problem at a time).
On the role of the presidency, she said there would be presidential level plan of action and that Federal Government would own and drive the process. “Nigeria is an attractive but difficult market; the new approach is to make it attractive and easy market”.
The next ranking is expected in early June 2016, and the SA said the government was eager to find out where Nigeria would be ranked this time around, better or worse, but that the idea would be to start the fight now.
She said the task team would have to identify the problems, agree with the steps of action and change the rhetoric. Some participants suggested units of attention such as embassies, visa office, flight officers, Customs, hotels, taxi drivers who extort visitors, etc, whose actions also affect the decision of foreign investors.
Another participants advised the task team to beware that that investors cross check what ambassadors, ministers and the presidents say abroad. “Let us start a new message by word and by action.”
The participants however urged Nigerians not to mourn for forever because Nigeria is ranked 4th on profit making, saying there were few countries where people make 35 percent of profit on investments as is the case in Nigeria at the moment.
The SA said a website is being set aside and run by the NEPIC to educate investors on ease of doing business and what steps to take.
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