A typical maxim about a liberalized business environment is that, “It is not the business of government to do business but to create an enabling business for private enterprise to thrive.”
In the 1980s, Ghana’s adoption of the World Bank’s Structural Adjustment Program ushered us into a consistent liberalization of the economy. Government’s main focus has been to achieve a stable macroeconomic framework, provide infrastructure and public goods as well as other public services that enhance the business environment.
Many commercial entities that used to be owned and managed by the state have either been divested or converted into limited liability corporations. This is a policy proof that the country’s governing philosophy has largely been in favor of liberalization, regardless of which regime has been in power.
The ease of doing business is deemed a major indicator of whether the efforts to liberalize the business environment have been successful or not. How do laws, regulations and institutional arrangements of the government and civil service shape daily economic activity? What are the outcomes of regulatory measures? How clear and transparent are procedures for accessing public services?
Although Ghana has made strides to ensure relative ease of doing business, more needs to be done. One area that needs to be looked at is the red tape in the civil service. The work of the civil service and other public service organizations is characterized by official routine and procedure. Although the routine and procedure are supposed to ensure efficiency and prevent corruption, they end up breeding complexity and delay. The civil service thus becomes a hindrance to the private sector, instead of being a facilitator.
For many years, the World Bank’s Doing Business Report provided quantitative data on business regulations across 190 countries. Areas assessed included starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, protecting minority investors, paying taxes and trading across borders. The report also evaluated enforcing contracts, resolving insolvency and labour market regulation.
Per the 2018 report, the last one before the exercise was discontinued, Ghana’s ranking improved from 120 to 114. Considering that the report ranks the business environment of 190 countries, position 114 makes the country woefully uncompetitive.
As a nation, it is time to take a serious look at addressing the bottlenecks embedded in our civil service bureaucracy. We must craft a framework that will streamline systems and procedures for a more efficient delivery of government services. Various governments in Ghana have sought to reform the public service through the Public Sector Reforms Secretariat under the Office of the President. Despite this, the objective of smoothening the delivery of public services has been piecemeal and not far-reaching enough. What is required is a more comprehensive framework, enabled through an Act of Parliament, with an entity that is solely responsible for cutting the red tape.
Enacting the Ease of Doing Business and Anti Red Tape Act in Ghana is the way forward to making services rendered by the civil service less cumbersome and more efficient. It will make the business environment more friendly, reduce corruption and quicken economic growth. It will also improve the overall competitiveness of the economy. The body to be set up must have the authority to reform institutions with the view to making them more efficient and friendly to the business community as well as the citizenry.
In 2016, CEO Network Ghana launched the Ghana CEO Summit. The summit has carved a reputation as the foremost business conference for topmost CEOs, heads of state, diplomats and policymakers. We have always leveraged the summit’s platform to advocate for major policy enactments and business leadership models. As the sixth edition of the summit beckons, we are determined to challenge policy makers to give serious attention to cutting the red tape in the delivery of public services. The quest to get the nation to enact the Ease of Doing Business and Anti Red Tape Act will be a major call to action at the 2022 summit, which is to be held on Monday May 30 at Kempinski Hotel in Accra.
Among many others, the summit will feature a plenary session that will discuss the economy and ease of doing business. The discussion will focus on the building blocks that must be strengthened to substantially improve the business environment. Economic outlook, regulatory reforms, corruption eradication, public sector leadership and technology are some of the building blocks that will be explored.
In the era of the fourth industrial revolution, convenience is not a matter of preference but a matter of course. Cutting the red tape will help the nation create a more business-and-people-friendly environment. We cannot fit in global trends if our civil service machinery is laborious and cumbersome.
About the author
Ernest De-Graft Egyir is a Management Consultant and an Executive Advisor to Topmost CEOs. He is the founder and CEO of Ghana CEO Network and Ghana CEO Summit. Website: ghanaceosummit.com // Email: [email protected]