A World Bank Consultative Workshop that commenced in the capital on Friday and brought together regulators and respondents would endeavour to help resolve discrepancies and create a better understanding on the ease of doing business in the country.
Namibia's position in the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business ranking has continuously slipped in the last few years, dropping from 33rd in 2006 to 98th in 2014.
But on Friday the Minister of Trade and Industry, Calle Schlettwein, said in a speech delivered by the Deputy Minister, Tjekero Tweya: "I personally engaged with the World Bank team and challenged their process and findings. We engaged in a data collection exercise last year on all the regulatory pillars in preparation for the next ranking and we submitted to the World Bank a report of more than 100 pages documenting the administrative processes that are followed in Namibia. It was with some surprise and disappointment that we learnt that despite this effort our ranking declined further, and in fact that there are discrepancies reported by regulators versus what is experienced in practice and reported by the private sector respondents of the World Bank."
He added that his ministry took the initiative of the consultative workshop to gather relevant stakeholders, particularly regulators and members of the private sector, under one roof to deliberate on issues that prevent Namibia from offering a requisite conducive environment and attain advancement in rankings by credible and internationally recognized institutions such as the World Bank.
Schlettwein however admitted that while it remains clear that the Namibian Government is committed to improving the business and investment climate in the country, it has been also observed and documented that the implementation of reform measures and programmes has been slow, while the country has been slipping down the rankings over the past years.
One of the reasons cited for Namibia's drop in ranking by the World Bank, amongst others, include the lack of a specific coordinating institution that monitors and keeps track of the implementation of regulatory and administrative reforms.
"To address the shortcomings, and in line with a responsibility allocated to the Ministry of Trade and Industry in the 4th National Development Plan concerning the improvement of the business environment ... this workshop was therefore called upon to deliberate and come up with suggestions, proposals and an action plan for the way forward," said Schlettwein.
Recently, several initiatives have been conducted to monitor, analyse and evaluate conditions of the Namibian Investment Climate. Among them are the Namibia Business and Investment Climate Survey (namBIC) 2014, the 2005/2006 Namibia Investors Roadmap, the 2010 Namibia Investors Roadmap Audit, the 2006 FIAS report on investment regulations, the World Economic Forum's report on competitiveness and the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business Report 2014.
"While the results from these initiatives proved not to be satisfactory, this consultative workshop is another effort aimed at contributing to the broader and ongoing dialogue with particular focus on the regulatory and administrative reform measures," added Schlettwein.
In the current Ease of Doing Business 2014 survey, Namibia is ranked 98th out of 189 economies surveyed and measured. In the SADC region Namibia ranks behind Mauritius (20th), South Africa (41st), Botswana (56th), Seychelles (80th) and Zambia (83rd).
Schlettwein pointed out that Namibia's performance has been uneven across different business activities that were studied and measured. The country recorded satisfactory performance in the category of dealing with construction permits and getting credit, but the minister conceded that more effort to improve the situation is required.
In this year's ranking Namibia performed particularly poorly in starting a business, registering property, trading across borders and enforcing contracts.
Also commenting on Namibia's decline in ranking, the World Bank's Country Representative, Philip Schuler, said Namibia was stagnant on a number of pillars measured by the World Bank while other countries that have moved up in the ranks have improved.
For instance, Schuler said, between 2006 and 2014 the number of procedures in starting a business in Namibia stood at 10.
However, according to Schuler, Namibia has not made any significant attempts to improve the existing business climate and in some cases moved from bad to worse, while other economies in the region recorded notable improvements.
The World Bank report says that in the category of registering property in 2012, Namibia made transferring of property more expensive for companies.
In the 2013 report, Namibia made transferring of property even more cumbersome and difficult by requiring conveyancers to obtain a building compliance certificate beforehand and in the 2014 report, Namibia made transferring of property again more expensive by increasing transfer and stamp duties.
Namibia's ranking on starting a business in the 2014 World Bank report is worse than Chad, a country ranked 181 out of 189 economies.
In Chad, it takes 62 days to register a company requiring nine procedures. In Namibia it takes 66 days to register a company and 10 procedures.
In 2006 Namibia was comfortably ranked 36th, while Zambia was 87th out of 93 economies surveyed and measured in 2006. However today, Namibia stands at 98th, while Zambia has improved to 83rd position out of 189 economies surveyed in 2014.
"We have invited a team of experts from the World Bank to provide us with technical assistance, expert advice and guidance on best practices. However, the task and obligation to introduce, formulate, develop and implement reform measures remains our responsibility. This is to ensure that reform measures designed, developed and implemented are in tandem with government policies, objectives and priorities," noted Schlettwein.
Namibia's ranking in the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business survey for the last nine years is as follows:
2006 - 33rd
2007 - 42nd
2008 - 43rd
2009 - 54th
2010 - 69th
2011 - 78th
2012 - 87th
2013 - 94th
2014 - 98th