STRENGTHENING THE EASE OF DOING BUSINESS REFORMS

Cyril Okonkwo, Abuja

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Nigeria has kick started the third phase of the National Action Plan, NAP, aimed at driving the ease of doing business in the country. Tagged NAP 3.0, the initiative championed by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration is intended to remove critical bottlenecks and bureaucratic red tapes that hinder smooth business operations in Nigeria. It is running for a 60 day period spanning February to April 2018.

The 60-day National Action Plan is part of strategies towards achieving the goals of President Muhammadu Buhari’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan. It will therefore reduce the challenges faced by Small and Medium Enterprises, (SMEs) in the process of getting credit, paying taxes, or moving goods across the country, among others.

The initiative which followed the two previous 60-day national action plans that began in February 2017 is also aimed at strengthening Nigeria’s upward progress in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index, 2019.

The first National Action Plan, NAP 1.0, commenced on the twenty-first of February and ended on the twenty-first of April 2017, while the second cycle, NAP 2.0, ran from the third of October to the First of December, 2017.

The Presidential Enabling Business Council, which was created by the Federal government in 2016 and chaired by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo is saddled with the responsibility of effectively implementing the economic reform agenda. This is through the Enabling Business Council Secretariat, in collaboration with some critical stakeholders in the Public and Civil Service sectors.

This is why, the first action plan contained initiatives that were implemented by some ministries, departments and agencies, the National Assembly, Lagos and Kano state governments as well as some private sector stakeholders.

Prior to the NAP initiatives, Nigeria was rated low in the World Bank’s ranking, both for economic competitiveness and the ease of doing business. These unfavourable business and economic indices greatly affected the country’s capacity to attract sufficient investments from both local and foreign investors, thereby lowering productivity and economic development.

The successes recorded by NAP One and Two, led to the relaxation of some of the cumbersome processes of doing business in Nigeria, particularly in the areas of starting a business, acquiring a construction permit, power supply, registering property and accessing credit.

Also, company registration with the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, was simplified through a portal opened for that purpose, doing away with requiring the services of legal experts.

The introduction of single incorporation form and document upload interface   on the CAC website has enhanced e-submission of registration documents   and reduced cost and time hitherto wasted in the past.

Operators of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, can now heave a sigh of relief, as some of the bureaucratic bottlenecks that inhibit the growth of their businesses have been removed. The burden of accessing credits, payment of taxes and movement of goods across Nigeria has also reduced.

The gains of these economic reforms have moved Nigeria up twenty four places in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index for 2018, upgrading her from the 169th position it occupied in the 2017 to 145th position in the 2018 Report.  Nigeria was also named as one of the ten improved countries in the world that introduced ease of doing business reforms.

Under the third sixty-day National Action Plan, NAP 3.0, which is currently running its course, Nigeria is expected to consolidate on these gains by ensuring optimal growth for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises. This will be through increased accessibility of credit by driving and incentivizing banks to utilize the collateral registry.  It is also hoped that NAP 3.0 will increase the number of SMEs that can access government contracts by communicating and enforcing the minimum employee requirement for pension contributions to fifteen, through the Bureau of Public Procurement.

By April 5, this year, when NAP 3.0 would have run its full course, it is expected that Nigeria will not only improve her position in the World Bank ranking, but also strengthen the ease of doing business in the country.

Ultimately, the commitment of the Nigerian government to these reforms and the support of stakeholders and the citizens if sustained will attract direct investments in the country and create jobs for the teeming population of unemployed youth.  All hands must therefore be on deck to ensure a competitive business environment and inclusive growth in all sectors of the Nigerian economy, in order to achieve the goals of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.

The gains, which have already started coming, will erase any residue of doubt about the ability of the Buhari administration to achieve the seven percent growth in ease of doing business and economic growth by the year 2020.

 

A.S