According to a World Bank Report, Nigeria is 169th of the 190 places where formally doing business is easy. This write-up examines the government’s response to this and why the report may be myopic altogether.
“The real cause of poverty is the unchecked power of the state against poor people without rights”
-William Easterly in his book– The Tyranny of Experts,
Actions at improving, rather, manipulating economic development in developing countries have been largely determined by indicators crafted, measured and used by multilateral organizations such as the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Very often though, these indicators are not as diagnostic as they are acclaimed to be. A government that makes policy decisions merely on the basis of this will therefore be making the same mistake as a doctor makes who treats a patient on the basis of his present symptoms without reference to neither his medical history, a scientific test nor the patient’s own opinion.
Nigeria ranked 169 out of 190 countries surveyed on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report. While majority of African countries had drastic improvement, Nigeria moved only one place. In it’s response to this report, the Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari inagurated the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council around September 2016. The council deployed a 60-Day National Action Plan on Ease of Doing Business which was implemented from February 21, 2017 to April 21, 2017.
The council’s primary goal is to move Nigeria 20 places upwards on the (World Bank’s) Ease of Doing Business Index. Altough the index has been criticized by many (for instance, a study commissioned by the Norwegian government registered worry that many countries may find it easier to change their ranking in Doing Business than to change the underlying business environment); the Nigeiran PEBEC highlighted 8 Action Points as it’s Priority Areas. They are:
- Starting a Business
- Construction Permits
- Getting Electricity
- Registering Property
- Getting Credit
- Paying Taxes
- Trading Across Borders
- Entry and Exit of People
These Action Points are only infallible if Nigeria wants to hand over all or most of her economy to foreigners. This is because it shows, at first sight, a tilt towards external investment and the activities of giant corporations rather than focusing on the Informal Sector that provides 90% of new jobs and accounts for around 50% of the economy. In a country where law enforcement maltreats traders, a place where government agencies are perceived as business assassins; we should first think of respecting and supporting businesses outside the formal setting before trying to meet external expectations.
Although activities like the MSME Clinics launched by the office of the Vice President seem to attempt include the informal sector, such programs are attended by businesses that can be classified as the upper-middle class of the Nigerian business community. The woman who sells epa, Mama Put’s canteen and Broda Taju’s mechanic shop don’t get to hear of such events, not to talk of understanding it’s importance or attending.
As Nigeria, under the leadership of Acting President Osinbajo, seeks reforms, transparency and economic stability; she needs to remember that what you do is as important as what you say you do. Beyond the fun-fare of signing executive orders and appearing on the media at social events; the people who build Nigeria should never be relegated nor forgotten. The ones who give us most of our new jobs and oil our economy should be the curators and focus of our economic policies.