Despite Nigeria’s current status as Africa’s largest economy, the country’s economic performance ranking locally and internationally has continued to nosedive, a development not healthy for the growth of the economy and international business. In Nigeria scarcity of petroleum products, exchange rate instability, low capacity utilization for industries, smuggling of goods, fake and substandard products and high food import bill are combining to stifle the economy. Results of two of such rankings released recently give no cause to cheer.   Nigeria slumped in the global competitiveness ranking falling by seven places to 127th position. The 2015-16 Global Competitiveness Report states that infrastructure (human and physical) continue to be Nigeria’s toughest challenges. The report attributed the decline in Nigeria’s global competitiveness “to weakness in public finances (as a result of lower oil exports), continuing institutional frailty, mismanagement of fiscal policy and deterioration in national security.” Unfortunately, Nigeria, the famed giant of Africa and continent’s largest oil producer lags behind little known countries as Lesotho and Cape Verde which registered the largest improvements, while Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Ghana, Senegal and Swaziland are relatively stable. Unfortunately for Nigeria, among the oil-exporting economies, Gabon is the highest-ranked economy followed by Cameroon and Chad. Even Africa’s lowest-income economy Ethiopia recorded the biggest leap, rising nine places to 118th. In the same vein, Nigeria didn’t also make it to the top-10 list of business-friendly countries, according to a recent World Bank Report. Egypt topped the list of reformers that are making it easier to do business. Egypt’s reforms went deep with reforms in 5 of the 10 areas studied by Doing Business, and it greatly improved its position in the global rankings as a result. Besides Egypt, the other top 10 reformers are,  Croatia, Ghana, FYR Macedonia, Georgia, Colombia, Saudi Arabia, Kenya, China, and Bulgaria. Nigerian is no where near the list despite her huge human and material resources. Today, Egypt is, the top reformer in both Africa and worldwide with huge lessons for  the Nigerian government. Egypt’s reforms went deep. Egypt cut the minimum capital required to start a business, from 50,000 Egyptian pounds to just 1,000 and halved the time and cost of start- up. It reduced fees for registering property from 3 percent of the property value to a low, fixed amount. It eased the bureaucracy that builders face in getting construction permits. It launched new one-stop shops for traders at Egyptian ports, cutting the time to import by seven days and the time to export by five. And it established a new private credit bureau that will soon be making it easier for borrowers to get credit. With such excellent encouragement why will the process of doing business in that country not improve unlike in Nigeria where entrepreneurs go through the proverbial eye of the needle before establishing their business? In this country, when entrepreneurs draw up a business plan and try to get under way, the first hurdle they face is the procedure required to incorporate and register the new firm before they can legally operate. In some, the process is straight forward and affordable. In others, the procedure is so burdensome that entrepreneurs often bribe officials to speed the process—or may decide to run their business informally. In the sea and airports, cumbersome entry procedures are associated with more corruption, particularly in the public service. Each procedure is a point of contact— an opportunity to extract a bribe. Analysis shows that burdensome entry regulations do not increase the quality of products, make work safer or reduce pollution. Instead, they constrain private investment; push more people into the informal economy; increase consumer prices; and fuel corruption. Government should not continue to fold its arms pretending that all is well with our economy. Seminars, economic summits, workshops and other talk shows are not what we need right now because we have had many of them in the past including the National conference,  with no tangible  action. At best, results of such jamborees are kept somewhere in the bookshelves of government offices. We need pro-active, result-oriented approach to the current economic crisis in Nigeria. The people are suffering.

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