Regulatory reforms and the ease of doing business matter for long-term economic growth and prosperity in Ghana, Mr Jim McAlpine, the Country Director of the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DfID) – Ghana has said.
Speaking in Accra to mark the maiden Better Regulatory Forum and Ghana Business enabling environment programme annual review, he said Ghana has so much to gain going for the reforms.
This is because Ghana’s ranking for starting a business has fallen from 97th in 2015 to 102nd in 2016 in the World Bank’s world ‘Doing Business’ rankings,” he said.
“With the exception of construction permits, every other key indicator in the Doing Business survey has stayed the same or worsened.
“This is bad news for Ghana because a country’s business environment matters, not just for the entrepreneurs, but also for the people who have jobs in their businesses, and the families that depend on these incomes.
“It’s also bad news for economic growth and poverty reduction, for all Ghanaian’s today and for future generations,” he stated.
Citing the UK’s Engine programme held in September, for 108 companies whose business ideas had been selected to receive support, Mr McAlpine said the talent and entrepreneurial spirit of Ghana’s young women and men abound for all to see for themselves.
He stated that it is high time the young people are assisted to deliver for themselves and for Ghana in the face of the challenges of doing business.
The Country Director said the business environment is an important part of the broader investment climate and refers to the quality and efficiency of business laws and regulations, which together with the rule of law, political stability, issues around corruption, land tenure, the macro-economic framework and infrastructure constitutes the investment climate.
He said taken together, the factors help to determine the cost and risk involved in doing business in a country and could affect the opportunities that firms have to expand.
Mr McAlpine explained that they often represent severe constraints to both domestic small and medium-size enterprises, and foreign direct investors.
He said for UK companies looking to invest in finance, insurance, energy (both conventional and renewable), real estate, hospitals, and agriculture, issues around the investment climate make them think twice, particularly if there are other markets in the region that they consider to be easier.
“Underneath this gloomy news, there is no doubt that Ghana is making progress in rethinking approaches to the business environment,” he stated.
He recounted that the World Bank, funded by the DfID presented research on how government, donors and the private sector could learn from the experiences of Ghana’s two previous Private Sector Development Strategies.
He noted that this renewed sense of the need to come to together to effect a Public Private Dialogue that really delivers across sectors must work within the framework of the 40-year Long Term Development Plan for Ghana currently being finalised by the National Development Planning Commission.
He said the Plan would guide the medium term planning process and provides an important framework for action that can guide this dialogue.
“Ghana’s peers in Sub-Saharan Africa are reforming faster and going further. For example, Kenya has improved its Doing Business ranking from 129 to 108 in the last year alone.
“Ghana faces competition from other countries that have cottoned on to the importance of institutional reforms and cutting red tape, initiatives that allow businesses to thrive, create jobs and pay taxes,” he said.
He said many countries are redoubling their efforts in reforms and in some cases are cutting substantially the regulatory burden and thereby easing the cost of compliance.
He said in some jurisdictions businesses could be registered in a day.
He said in Sub-Saharan Africa the best performers for starting a business are Burundi four days and Liberia four and a half days
Mr McAlpine said: “In Ghana it takes on average 14 days to register a business, and the cost of starting a business rose by 70 per cent in 2012 alone.
“This means Ghana has competition for investment, and needs to do more to attract it.”
The two-day Better Regulation Forum in Accra brought together 70 participants from the public sector, the business community, policy think tanks and civil society to look at best practices and new approaches to reducing the regulatory burdens.
Guest speakers came from countries such as Bangladesh, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya to share their experiences of reform and the tools they have used.
The Better Regulation Forum was organised by the Business Enabling Environment Programme (BEEP), a £10 million business environment reform initiative by the Government of Ghana and DfID.
BEEP facilitates policy dialogue between government agencies and the firms that have to comply and implement regulation, and supports government to enact reforms that make it easier and cheaper for agencies to regulate and firms to comply.