The National Doing Business Committee (NDBC), the select committee looking into improving the business climate in the country, is making strides having completed some of the reforms.
The past few years have not been pleasant due to the challenges brought about by the global economic recession and Botswana competiveness has been deteriorating.
In 2010, Botswana was ranked 50, 52nd in 2011 and 54th in 2012 out of 183 countries.
“The reforms being implemented are aimed at simplifying procedures and reducing time taken to start and operate businesses,” said Boniface Mphetlhe, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Trade and Industry.
He was briefing the business community on the progress made in terms of policies, interventions and other initiatives.
Botswana is in the process of improving the World Bank’s doing business indicators for starting and operating a business, these include starting a business, dealing with construction permits, registering property, getting credit, protecting investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts, resolving insolvency and getting electricity.
Following the release of the global competitiveness report in September 2011 the set committee has been working on the urgent reforms with some of the reforms having been completed.
The committee is looking into enactment of e-legislation, review of immigration procedures to attract skilled expatriates to Botswana, especially as Botswana prepares to become world leading diamond trade centre, in addition to the promotion of mindset campaign to improve the national ethic, review of labour laws to simplify hiring and firing procedures, and to review the minimum wage policy on productivity.
On the economic indicator of starting a business, Mphetlhe said the committee has managed to introduce indefinite licensing system, merging of procedures for business name and company registration. In addition, directors are now allowed to sign company declaration forms without engaging company secretaries or attorneys. The number of company registration forms has been reduced from 6 to 2 and a standard checklist for business license applications across all local authorities has been developed.
He said on the payment of taxes, the committee has managed to implement an integrated taxpayer management system to reduce long queues, income tax amendments, whilst on trading across borders, installation of container scanners to ease queue and congestion at the Tlokweng border and Gabcon has been done.
Mphetlhe said there is remarkable progress on the ongoing projects. He revealed that on starting business, the committee has proposed legislation to allow electronic filing of forms and signing certificates and to date a bill on e-commerce, e-signature and data protection will be submitted to parliament this July.
He said they are looking into monitoring compliance by local authorities and expect to complete it by 30 November 2013.
“We want to engage the councils to discuss delays in physical planners and health inspector’s reports which delay approval of licenses,” said Mphetlhe.
Further, dealing with construction permits, Mphetlhe said ministry of local government is working with local authorities to develop inspection forms adding that the town and country planning act bill will be submitted to parliament in December. The bill is expected to decentralize town and country planning board’s functions to councils to reduce delays in the approval of planning permits.
“We have established an electronic interface with neighbouring countries, starting with Namibia to address trade across borders; the pilot project has commenced as planned and is scheduled for completion by end of April 2012,” he said.
He added that the committee is looking into protecting investors, by reviewing and acting on concerns relating to the extent of disclosure, extent of liability and ease of shareholder suits.
“The draft securities bill being drafted will be submitted to parliament this year,” he said.