World Bank cancels Ease of Doing Business report, FG frowns

The Nigerian government has condemned the discontinuation of the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report 2020.

Nigeria’s dissatisfaction followed the announcement by the World Bank that it has decided to discontinue the Doing Business report on the heels of the irregularities spotted in the data for China(DB 2018), as well as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Azerbaijan (DB 2020) which are the countries affected by the irregularities.

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According to the World Bank, the changes in the data for the aforementioned countries did not align with the Doing Business methodology, promising that a new methodology will be worked out to assess the business and investment climates of countries across the world.

“After reviewing all the information available to date on Doing Business, including the findings of past reviews, audits, and the report the Bank released today on behalf of the Board of Executive Directors, World Bank Group management has taken the decision to discontinue the Doing Business report. The World Bank Group remains firmly committed to advancing the role of the private sector in development and providing support to governments to design the regulatory environment that supports this.

“Going forward, we will be working on a new approach to assessing the business and investment climate. We are deeply grateful to the efforts of the many staff members who have worked diligently to advance the business climate agenda, and we look forward to harnessing their energies and abilities in new ways”, the World Bank says.

Consequently, a statement released by the Presidency through the Office of the special adviser to the President on Ease of Doing Business and Presidential Enabling Business Environmental Council (PEBEC) secretary, Jumoke Oduwole, stated that Nigeria was saddened by the anomalies that trailed the discontinued World Bank’s report just as she maintained that Nigeria would continue to improve its business environment.

“We are aware that manifold challenges remain, which the private sector players face daily in the course of their interactions with some ministries, departments and agencies across the country. As such, we remain committed to our agenda of improving Nigeria’s business climate in its entirety.

”The report served as a catalyst for economic reforms and investor decisions across the globe. Nigeria strongly condemns the corruption, connivance and collusion among top officials of the Bank which has led to the unfortunate termination of the report after its suspension in 2020”, Oduwole says.

Nigeria was first featured in the Ease of Doing Business report of 2004 when it was ranked based on actual and perceived business realities from survey contributors in Lagos and Kano, the two largest commercial cities in the country. Having started on a relatively good note, Nigeria’s ranking declined from 106th in 2007 to 170th in 2015 – a drop of 64 places translating into an average loss of 8 spots a year.

To improve on Nigeria’s ratings on the Doing Business Report, Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, in July 2016, set up the establishment of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC).

Since its inception, the PEBEC secretariat has collaborated with ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), the National Assembly, the judiciary, state governments and the private sector to deliver over 160 reforms in a bid to remove bureaucratic constraints to doing business in Nigeria and make the country a progressively easier place to start and grow a business.

Nigeria’s vice president, Yemi Osinbajo, is the chair of the council, and he is ably supported by the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Niyi Adebayo, serving as the vice-chair. In addition, 13 other ministers, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the head of the civil service of the federation, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, as well as representatives of the National Assembly, Lagos and Kano states, Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) and the private sector are also members.

Justifying the relevance of PEBEC, Nigeria improved an aggregate of 39 places in the World Bank Doing Business index from 170th to 131st position. The improvement in the fortune of Nigeria began in 2017 when it leapt up by an unprecedented 24 places on the Doing Business rankings and again moved up 15 places in 2019. The country was twice named as one of the top 10 most improved economies in the world in the last three editions of the report, one of only two African countries to make this highly prestigious list in 2019.

While the Doing Business index provided objective benchmarking of Nigeria’s strides in comparison to other countries, and external validation of Nigeria ease of doing a business intervention, the Nigerian business community has been and remains the raison d’etre for the business climate reform mandate of the PEBEC. Since its inception, the PEBEC has developed its own home-grown indicators and programmes starting with “Entry and Exit of People” pertaining to streamlining visa issuance and immigration processes at our airports.

Among its major achievements, the PEBEC has been internationally recognized for its signature home-grown 60-day accelerators – National Action Plans (NAPs) – designed to coordinate the effective delivery of priority reforms of select MDAs annually. Six NAPs have been completed from 2017 to date.

Other innovations include the design and implementation of Executive Order 001 on Transparency and Efficiency of Public Service Delivery signed in May 2017 as well as a feedback mechanism, www.ReportGov.Ng is a publicly available complaints portal.

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