Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has added fillip to his administration’s commitment to the processes that would enable the state gain in the ease of doing business ranking and become the preferred investors’ haven.
Before the latest strategy, the Edo State Investment Promotion Office, created by the Governor and headed by Mr. Kelvin Uwaibi, has been working on a series of programmes to vigorously market Edo to potential investors in Nigeria and in Diaspora, who constantly seek environments with liberal economic policies.
Interestingly, with the coming on stream of the Ossiomo Independent Power project which currently feeds the Edo production centre, some government offices, the ongoing street light project across the state and a network of reconstructed roads across the three senatorial districts, Edo is clearly way out in front of other states in Nigeria as the new investment frontier offering new opportunities.
In addition, the Obaseki-led administration has cut the time for getting certificate of occupancy (C-of-O) for property to a few weeks, from the over five years it used to take, prior to his emergence as governor.
Edo parades a huge pool of ready-to-work and skilled youths, a robust market driven by foreign receipts, other support structures like security, availability of raw materials, a friendly tax regime, a functional industrial court for the resolution of business-related matters, amongst other business-support structures.
According to Obaseki, one of the ways to make the top spot in the ease of doing business ranking is to spur the ongoing economic diversification effort across the state and effectively communicate achievements in the key sectors.
The governor said this while inaugurating the 15-man Business Enabling Environment Task Team, set up to identify the challenges militating against businesses and recommend solutions that would raise the state’s ease of doing business profile in Government House, Benin City, the state capital.
Beyond ranking, Obaseki stressed that in the long term, only states with liberal economic policies and a business-friendly disposition will do well in the face of dwindling revenue from the federation account.
He explained: “This is a team that has been set up to prepare the state for a baseline survey on the ease of doing business in Nigeria as was decided by the Nigeria Economic Council. As you are aware, states today are typically funded by the federation account.”
“Investors use the National survey as a guide when they are selecting states where they will invest in. One of the indicators is how long it takes to get a Certificate of Occupancy (C-of-O). They want to see the process and compare it to other states.
“If we are at the bottom of that survey, we will not be a priority state to come into, and this survey is so internationally. I think it is something we should take seriously,” Obaseki told the team of experts, headed by the commissioner for finance, Mr. Joseph Eboigbe
He maintained that in a normal environment, states depend on tax revenue and so the states’ ability to do well depends on the ease with which business is conducted in their domains, adding that the federal government still give subvention to states today but states’ growth cannot be satisfied by such allocations.
“Over the years, the attitude of states is to run themselves with the view that at the end of the month, funding will come from the federal government. In a normal environment, states depend on taxation for their sustenance.”
He added: “States ability to do well depends on the businesses in the environment. What has happened today in Nigeria is that the federal government still gives subvention to states on a monthly basis. But the growth requirements for states today cannot be satisfied by the allocations.
“So, for any state to survive going into the future, you must have enough businesses that can pay taxes from which you can derive revenues. For businesses to be able to do well based on which you will now collect taxes, the environment for them to do well must be conducive.
“You must create an environment where businesses will thrive. Let’s take transportation for instance, if your roads are not good, and drivers don’t meet up with their desired targets, you cannot collect enough taxes.
“If it’s the manufacturer that cannot have access to reasonable electricity cost, how are they going to make profits? How are they going to pay taxes? How are they going to increase the number of staff in their workforce? So, the purpose of the government is to create an environment for people to do well.
“Unfortunately, the government has evolved in a very arrogant manner, wanting to suck the blood out of these businesses for our own survival as government, whereas, our first priority should be the public and businesses. If you look at the way we are operating today, our first priority is to take care of ourselves.”
The team has Mr. Kelvin Uwaibi as Secretary. Members include Frank Evbuomwan, Ukinebo Dare, Dr. Joan Osa-Oviawe and Edugie Agbonlahor, Isoken Omoand the Edo Communication Organization amongst others.
Speaking on behalf of the team, Mr. Eboigbe assured the Governor of an excellent job and thanked him for finding them worthy for the task.
By Isaac Aimurie