The World Bank has released its annual Doing Business Report 2019 on 31 October 2018. The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report, released just a fortnight ago, and the World Bank’s Doing Business Report provide among others governments, investors and financial institutions with information on factors crucial for investors. The Doing Business Report covers ten areas, such as the ease of starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity or registering property, with a total of 45 indicators. The country receives a score for each of the indicators. The total score determines the ranking of the country compared to other countries.
Since NDP 4 in 2012, Namibia aims at being the most competitive economy in Africa. This target is repeated in the Harambee Prosperity Plan and NDP5. We have missed the target again by a wide margin. Even though Namibia maintained the score in most indicators, the country slipped ranks again, which clearly indicates that other countries have made more progress over the years. The number of days to start a business remains unchanged at 66 since 2010 despite the establishment of the Business and Intellectual Property Authority (BIPA). Despite the launch of the NamBizOne portal there is no progress with the single window facility, which would accelerate business registrations. New technologies are hardly used to ease business registrations. Registration applications cannot be submitted by email, neither proof of payment. Furthermore, opening hours at BIPA, for instance, are business unfriendly.
Namibia also aims at becoming a logistics hub for southern Africa. Although the country improved the ranking in trading across borders from 151 in 2010 to 136 now, the ranking has deteriorated from 123 out of 189 in 2016. The declining ranking is another example for progress by other countries, since Namibia maintained the scores in all indicators since 2016. The administrative processes that result in long times and high cost to comply with export requirements compared to import requirements need to be reviewed, not only to support the ambition to become the logistics hub, but in order to ease access to foreign markets for Namibian businesses.
Although the score in the quality of land administration improved, it remained in the lowest 30%. The speedy implementation of resolutions taken at the land conference concerning urban land reform and related matters could improve the access to urban land as well as the time and cost of registration.
Namibia performs better regarding paying taxes than in 2010 (rank 97), but the trend reversed since 2016 (rank 74). The roll-out of the integrated tax administration system and the establishment of the Namibia Revenue Agency could result in a better ranking for this indicator.
Overall, the results of both the Global Competitiveness Report and the Doing Business Report need to be analysed thoroughly and decisive steps need to be taken to address the poor performance. As the Minister of Finance stressed several times in his Mid-Year Budget Review Speech, improving competitiveness is vital to attract domestic and foreign direct investment that will create jobs and generate income. We cannot afford to continue with business as usual.