Despite the efforts by the federal government to make it easier for companies and individuals to do business in the country, Nigeria only managed to move up two notches to improve its ranking on the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) for 2017-2018 to 125th position, out of the 137 countries ranked.
The country was ranked 127th on the 2016-2017 index released last year.
The ranking came as the expanded meeting of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) which held in the State House, Abuja, on Tuesday approved what it described as a new National Action Plan to drive reforms on ease of doing business in Nigeria.
But the WEF in the latest GCI obtained by THISDAY on Tuesday stressed that Nigeria recorded the slight improvement “only because other countries are deteriorating faster.”
This implied that the measures adopted by government to improve ease of doing business were yet to make a meaningful impact.
In fact, WEF noted that the country “has failed to increase its overall score since 2012.”
It listed some of the challenges hindering the country’s improvement on the index to include its macroeconomic environment (down 14 to 122) and institutional strength (down 7 to 125).
Others considered as barriers in the face of efforts to kick-start economic recovery included poor infrastructure (132) and Health and Primary Education (136).
Regrettably, Nigeria only managed to perform better on the GCI than war-torn or economically depressed countries such as Congo Democratic Republic (126), Venezuela (127), Haiti (128), Burundi (129), Sierra Leone (130), Lesotho (131), Malawi (132), Mauritania (133), Liberia (134), Chad (135), Mozambique (136), and Yemen (137).
Also, Nigeria was not among the top 10 ranked countries in Africa.
According to the report, Mauritius (45), Rwanda (58), South Africa (61), Botswana (63), Namibia (90), Kenya (91), Senegal (106), Seychelles (107), Ethiopia (108) and Cape Verde, were the top 10 countries in the latest GCI.
“Competitiveness is stalling across sub-Saharan Africa: In fact since only Ethiopia, Senegal, Tanzania and Uganda have managed to improve performance consecutively for five years since 2010,” it stated.
The report is an annual assessment of the factors driving countries’ productivity and prosperity.
It pointed out that 10 years on from the global financial crisis, the prospects for a sustained economic recovery remains at risk due to a widespread failure on the part of leaders and policymakers to put in place reforms necessary to underpin competitiveness and bring about much-needed increases in productivity.
For the ninth consecutive year, the report found Switzerland to be the world’s most competitive economy, narrowly ahead of the United States and Singapore.
Other G20 economies in the top 10 were Germany (5), the United Kingdom (8) and Japan (9).
China was the highest ranking among the BRICS group of large emerging markets, moving up one rank to 27.
Drawing on data going back 10 years, the report highlighted in particular three areas of greatest concern. These included the financial system, where levels of “soundness” were yet to recover from the shock of 2007 and in some parts of the world are declining further.
This, it said was of concern given the important role the financial system will need to play in facilitating investment in innovation related to the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Another key finding “is that competitiveness is enhanced, not weakened, by combining degrees of flexibility within the labour force with adequate protection of workers’ rights.
“With vast numbers of jobs set to be disrupted as a result of automation and robotisation, creating conditions that can withstand economic shock and support workers through transition periods will be vital.”
GCI data also suggested that the reason innovation often failed to ignite productivity was due to an imbalance between investments in technology and efforts to promote its adoption throughout the wider economy.
“Global competitiveness will be more and more defined by the innovative capacity of a country. Talents will become increasingly more important than capital and therefore the world is moving from the age of capitalism into the age of talentism.
“Countries preparing for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and simultaneously strengthening their political, economic and social systems will be the winners in the competitive race of the future,” the Founder and Executive Chairman, WEF, Klaus Schwab said.
Meanwhile, the PEBEC meeting which was presided over by PEBEC Chairman, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, last night, said the new National Action Plan tagged NAP 2.0 approved had over 60 priority initiatives to be achieved by November this year.
The closed-door meeting which lasted for about two hours, was attended by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, Deputy Senate Leader, Senator Bala N’Allah, who represented the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, Deputy Governor of Kano State, Prof. Hafiz Abubakar, representative of Lagos State Government, ministers and representatives of the private sector.
A statement last night by Osinbajo’s media aide, Mr. Laolu Akande, said the initiatives would cover areas such as: Starting a business, construction permits, registering property, getting electricity, getting credit, paying taxes, trading across boders, enforcing contracts, simplifying the procurement process, entry and exit of people, and trading within Nigeria.
According to him, the council expressed optimism that the successful implementation of NAP 2.0 would deliver significant benefits notably to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) including making 1.3 Medium Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) eligible to do business with government; bringing about 75 per cent reduction in average clearance time for foreign travellers; 60 per cent reduction in time to get electricity; 75 per cent reduction in time to register business premises and 50 per cent reduction in time for filing corporate income taxes.
He said while the initial NAP had a 70 per cent performance rate, the final results of NAP 2.0 would be announced in December by PEBEC secretariat.
Akande added that Osinbajo, while welcoming the CJN, Kano and Lagos State governments’ representatives as well as the representative of the Senate President to the meeting, highlighted the importance of the reform initiatives especially those around the Nigerian airports as an example.
“Improvements in the airport has a way of defining the change we are talking about. It will show we are serious,” Osinbajo was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile, the Registrar-General, Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), Mr. Bello Mahmud, yesterday said in Abuja that the cost of business registration in Nigeria was now cheaper and its process simplified to enable small entrepreneurs to register their businesses.
Muhmud announced this in a statement by Head, Public Affairs, CAC, Mr. Godfrey Ike.
Muhmud disclosed this while addressing the MSME Clinic.
He said with the Company Registration Portal (CRP), any member of the public could now register businesses on-line at the comfort of their homes and offices.
“This has drastically reduced the registration cost hitherto charged by professional middlemen (Lawyers, Accountants and Chartered Secretaries), in the registration process.
“Entrepreneurs who had already registered their businesses have the obligation to file Annual Returns with the Commission as and when due.
“Failure to file Annual Returns will result to striking-off of such defaulting entities on ground of dormancy.
“The MSME Clinic is an initiative of the Office of the vice president, which is aimed at holistically addressing all the operational challenges and bottlenecks of MSME in Nigeria,” Muhmud said.
According to him, the commission is one of the critical government agencies that has been participating in the on-going nationwide MSME Clinic that commenced in Aba in January.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reported he added that the MSME Clinic was expected to be held in all states of the federation.
“So far, the clinic has been held in 13 states of the federation,” he said.
According to him, other relevant agencies like FIRS, SON, Bank of Industry (BoI), NAFDAC, SMEDAN participated in the clinic.