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African economies: No significant improvement in ease of doing business

World Bank Group’s Ease of Doing Business 2020 report indicates that only two African countries have showed a significant improvement in the ease of doing business.  In Doing Business 2020, the top 10 improvers are Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Togo, Bahrain, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Kuwait, China, India as well as Nigeria.

These economies implemented a total of 59 regulatory reforms in 2018/19- accounting for one-fifth of all the reforms recorded worldwide. Their efforts focused primarily on the areas of starting a business, dealing with construction permits, and trading across borders.
According to the report, Togo was ranked 97th worldwide with a 7.0 change in Doing Business score, while Nigeria settled for the 131th position, with a 3.4 change in doing business score.

The report indicated that Jordan and Kuwait are new additions to the list of 10 most improved economies. Nigeria appears as one of the top-10 improvers for the second time. India, which has conducted a remarkable reform effort, joins the list for the third year in a row. Previously, only Burundi, Colombia, the Arab Republic of Egypt, and Georgia featured on the list of 10 top improvers for three consecutive Doing Business cycles. Given the size of India’s economy, these reform efforts are particularly commendable.

World Bank indicated that factors that drive economies to reform can either be political or economic or both. The economic advancement of neighbouring countries is also an important motivational factor. Their report says research on the effects of market-liberalizing reforms in 144 economies over the period 1995-2006 finds that the most important factor in transmitting reforms between countries is their geographical and cultural proximity.

The spill over effect is magnified when more countries adopt reforms that boost economic development. Furthermore, mass media coverage affects political decisions. A recent study finds that economies with higher media coverage of Doing Business tend to carry out more business regulatory reforms, which one- and two lags between media coverage and reform implementation.

The motivation for reform in Nigeria and Togo was in part the developmental achievements of their neighbours. Rwanda’s progress over the past 10 years inspired authorities in Togo, leading several Togolese delegations to visit Kigali to learn about successful reforms. Togo’s president, according to the report, set a goal to be number one in West Africa in Doing Business 2020. To achieve this target, Togo made significant reform efforts in the areas of starting a business, registering property, and getting credit.

Similarly, after observing an economic transformation in neighbouring Uzbekistan, Tajikistan’s president took a special interest in improving the country’s ranking on the ease of doing business. Nigeria has embarked on a comprehensive reform journey following the example of Kenya. In the previous year, 115 economies implemented 294 business regulatory reforms across the 10 areas measured by Doing Business.

Most of these reforms addressed aspects of starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, and paying taxes; the least reformed area was resolving insolvency. The most common reform features included advancing the functionality of credit bureaus and registries, developing or enhancing online platforms to comply with regulatory requirements, improving the reliability of power supply, reducing certain taxes, strengthening minority investor protections, streamlining property registration processes and automating international trade logistics. Low-income countries accounted for 11 per cent of all the regulatory changes, with Togo implementing the highest number of reforms.

The report says in Sub-Saharan Africa, Togo represents a bright spot. Sub-Saharan Africa remains one of the weak-performing regions on the ease of doing business with an average score of 51.8, well below the OECD high-income economy average of 78.4 and the global average of 63.0. compared to the previous year, Sub-Saharan African economies raised their average eased of doing business score by just 1 per cent point in Doing Business 2020, whereas economies in the Middle East and North Africa region raised their average score by 1.9.

Globally reforms in the areas dealing with construction permits and getting electricity have risen sharply in recent years, peaking in 2018/19 at 37 and 34, respectively. Twenty one of the 37 economies reforming aspects of dealing with construction permits simplified the permitting processes by streamlining interactions with agencies for preapprovals and inspections. The report said another 16 reformed their building quality control systems. In addition, 12 economies either set up or improved online platforms for processing building permits, and 3 economies launched one-stop shops.

In the area of getting electricity, Ghana and Nigeria reduced electricity connection times, the report claims. It says sixteen economies made substantial investments in modernizing electric infrastructure through the installation of substations and remote-control systems; others improved distribution network maintenance. Mainly owing to targeted improvements in electricity supply, the average global duration of power cuts fell by 8.3 per cent between 2017 and 2018. Although blackouts remain relatively frequent in Sub-Saharan Africa, utilities in this region made substantial progress in providing a better power supply to their customers.

Not all regulatory changes make it easier for entrepreneurs to do business, the report said. Some changes are a conscious trade-off. Political changes also play a role; this is according to the report. In Sudan, the new majority in the National Assembly did not endorse temporary amendments to the Compliance Act. As a result, a lapse in the provisions adversely affected Sudan’s performance on the indicators for getting credit, protecting minority investors, and resolving insolvency.

According to the ease of doing business ranking, Rwanda is on the 38th place, Belgium 46th Morocco 53rd, Kenya 56th, Tunisia 78th, South Africa 84th, Zambia 85th and Botswana was ranked 87th in the whole world. Doing Business 2020 is the 17th in a series of annual studies investigating the regulations that enhance business activity and those that constrain it.

It represents quantitative indicators on business regulations and the protection of property rights that can be compared across 190 economies- from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe- and over time. Regulations affecting 12 areas of the life of a business are covered: starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, protecting minority investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts, resolving insolvency, employing workers, and contracting with the government.

The employing workers and contracting with the government indicator sets are not included in this year’s ranking on the ease of doing business. The indicators are used to analyse economic outcomes and identify what reforms of business regulation have worked, where and why.

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State forged Kgosi’s arrest warrant

22nd July 2021
FORMER DIS BOSS: ISAAC KGOSI

In a classic and shocking case of disgrace and dishonour to this country, the law enforcement agencies are currently struggling to cover up a damaging and humiliating scandal of having conspired to forge the signature of a Palapye Chief Magistrate, Rebecca Motsamai in an unlawful acquisition of the much-publicised 2019 warrant of arrest against Isaac Kgosi, the former director of the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS).

The cloak-and-dagger arrest was led by the DIS director, Brigadier Peter Magosi supported by the Botswana Police, Botswana Defence Force (BDF), with the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) which accused Kgosi of tax evasion, in the backseat.

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UDC parties discuss by-elections

22nd July 2021
UDC

Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) constituent members are struggling to reach an agreement over the allocation of wards for the imminent ward by-elections across the country.

Despite a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) and Alliance for Progressives (AP) are said to be active, but the nitty-gritties are far from being settled.

The eight bye-elections will be a precursor of a somewhat delayed finalisation of the brittle MoU. The three parties want to draw a plan on how and who will contest in each of the available wards.

This publication has gathered that the negotiations will not be a run off the mill because there is already an impasse between the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) which is a UDC constituent and AP (currently negotiating to join umbrella).

The by-elections joint committee met last week at Cresta President Hotel in a bid to finalise allocation but nothing tangible came out of the gathering, sources say.

The cause of the stalemate according to those close to events, is the Metsimotlhabe Ward which the two parties have set their eyes on.

In 2019, he ward was won by Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) Andrew Sebobi who unfortunately died in a tragic accident in February last year.

Sebobi had convincingly won by 1 109 votes in the last elections; and was trailed by Sephuthi Thelo of the UDC trailed him with 631 votes; while Alliance for Progressives’ Innocent Moamogwe got 371 votes.

Thelo is a BCP candidate and as per UDC norm, incumbency prevails meaning that the BCP will contest since they were runners up. On the other hand, AP has also raised its hand for the same.

“AP asked for it on the basis that they have a good candidate but BCP did not agree to that request also arguing they have a better contestant,” one UDC member confided to this publication.

Notwithstanding Metsimotlhabe Ward squabble, it is said the by-election talks are almost a done deal, with Botswana National Front (BNF) tipped to take Boseja South ward in Mochudi East constituency. Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) will be awarded Tamasane Ward in Lerala/Maunatlala constituency, sources say.

“But the agreement has to be closed by National Executive Committee (NEC),” emphasized the informant.

The NEC is said to have been cautioned not to back the wrong horse but rather rate with reason and facts.

UDC President, Duma Boko has told this publication that, “allocation is complete with two wards already awarded but with only one yet to be finalized,” he could not dwell into much details as to which party got what and the reasons for the delay in finalisation.

Chairperson of the by-elections committee, Dr. Phenyo Butale responded to this publication regarding the matter: “As AP we contested and as you may be aware we signed the MoU with UDC and BPF to collaborate on bye-elections. The opposition candidate for all bye-elections will be agreed by these parties and that process is still ongoing,” he said when asked if AP is interested on the ward and how far with the talks on bye-elections.

Butale, a former Gaborone Central Member of Parliament, who is also AP Secretary General continued to say, “As the chairperson of the bye-elections committee we are still seized with that matter. We should also do some consultations with the local structures. Once the process is complete we will issue a notice for now we cannot talk about the other two while the other is still pending the other one”.

Butale further clarified: “There is no such thing as AP and BCP not in agreement. It is an issue of signatories discussing and determining the opposition candidates across the three wards.”

Apart from the three wards, there are five more council wards that UDC is yet to allocate to cooperating partners.

FROM PALAPYE MEET: BPP CAUTION NEC MEMBERS  

With the UDC cheerful from last weekend’s meeting in Palapye, the meeting however was very tense on the side of both BCP and BNF, with only BPP flexing its muscle and even lashing out.

BCP going into the meeting, had promised to ask difficult questions to the UDC NEC.

BCP VP and also acting Secretary General, Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, presented their qualms which were addressed by UDC Chairperson Motlatsi Molapisi, informants say.

It is said Molapisi is fed up and concerned by some UDC members especially those in the NEC who ‘wash party’s dirty linen in public’.

Insiders say the veteran politician cautioned the NEC members that they “will not expel any party but individuals who tarnish the image of the UDC.”

It is not the first time BPP play a paternalistic role as it once expressed its discontent with BCP in 2020, saying it should never wash UDC linen in public.

At first it is said, BPP, the oldest political formation in Botswana, claims disappointment on BCP stance that UDC should be democratised especially by sharing their stand with the media. Again, BPP was not happy with BCP leader Dumelang Saleshando’s decision to air his personal views on social media regarding the merger of UDC party.

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DIS infiltrates Police fingerprint system

22nd July 2021
Makgope

Botswana Police Service (BPS) Commissioner, Keabetswe Makgophe, has of late been dousing raging fires from various quarters of society following the infiltration of the police fingerprint system by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS), WeekendPost has learnt.

Fresh information gleaned from a number of impeccable sources, points to a pitiable working relationship between the two state organs. Cause of concern is the DIS continuous big brother role to an extent that it is now interfering with other institutions’ established mandates.

BPS which works closely with the DIS has been left exasperated by the works of the institution formed in 2008. It is said, the DIS through its Information Technology (IT) experts in collusion with some at BPS forensics department managed to infiltrate the Fingerprint system.

The infiltration, according to those in the know, was for the DIS to “teach a lesson” to some who are on their radar. It is said the DIS is playing and fighting dirty to win the fights they have lost before.

By managing to hack the police finger print system, a number of renowned businessmen and other politically exposed persons found their fingers in the system. What surprised the victims is the fact that they have never been charged of any wrongdoing by the police and they were left reeling in shock to learn that their fingers are on the data-base of criminals.

In fact, some of those who their fingerprints were falsely included in the records of those on the wrong side of law learnt later when other errands demanded their fingerprints.

“We learnt later when we had to submit and buy some documents and we were very shocked,” one politician who is also a businessman confided to this publication this week.

“We then learn that there are some fabricated criminality recorded for us, as to when did we commit those remained secret to the police, but then we had to engage our lawyers on the matter and that is when we were cleared,” said the politician-cum- tenderpreneur.

The lawyers have confirmed engaging the police and that the matters were settled in a gentlemen’s agreement and concluded.

All these happened behind the scenes with the police top brass oblivious only to be confronted by the irked lot, police sources also add. The victimized group who most of them have been fighting lengthy battles with the DIS read malice and did not blink when it was revealed that these were done by the DIS.

“And it was clear that they (DIS) are the ones in this dirty war which we don’t understand. Remember when we sue, it will be the Police at the courts not the DIS and that is why we agreed to a ceasefire more so they also requested that be kept under carpet,” said the victim.

Nonetheless, the Police through its spokesperson Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, briefly said: “we do not have any system that has been hacked.” On the other hand DIS mouthpiece Edward Robert was not in office this week to comment on the matter.

Reports however say DIS boss, Peter Magosi, who most of the victims accuse of the job, is said to have met his police counterpart Makgophe to put the matter to bed.

COVID-19 RAVAGES POLICE

As frontline workers, Police have not escaped the wrath of Covid-19. Already the numbers of those infected has reached the highest of high and they suggest that they be priorities on vaccine rollout.

“Our job is complicated, firstly we arrest including those who are non-compliant to Covid protocols and we go to accidents and many more. These put us at risk and it seems our superiors are not bothered,” said one police officer this week.

The cops further complain about that working spaces are small, as such expose them to contact the virus.

“Some tests positive and go for quarantine while the rest of the unit will be left without even test carried out. If at all the bosses are serious all the police officers should every now and then be subjected to testing or else we will be no more because of the virus,” added another officer based in Gaborone.

The government has since placed teachers on the priority list for the vaccines, it remains to be seen whether the police, who also man road blocks, will be considered.

“But our bosses should convince the country leadership about this, if not then we are doomed,” concluded a more senior officer.

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