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What Do Small Business Owners Want The Next President To Do For Small Business?

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It is election time. Come 2019, Nigerians will decide, whether to approve the first four years of President Muhammadu Buhari and urge him on, or choose any one of the many contenders who are contesting the position with him.

As Small Business Owner, you cannot be an innocent bystander in this contest for the Office of the Chief Executive Officer of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

As we often say, small businesses are the engine rooms of the economy, and Small Business Owners are the prime movers at the helm of these enterprises. But, because Small Business Owners rarely leverage the appropriate platforms to voice their concerns and needs, they are usually over-burdened or all-together ignored by the powers that be. Which is why, as we approach the 2019 Presidential elections, I have polled the views of my network of business owners, experts and entrepreneurs. In response to my request for them to share what they want the next President to do to help Small Business Owners and their small businesses to survive and thrive, here is a listing of their answers in no special order:

  1. Cut-Back On Regulation.

In spite of what we hear and what are being done, it remains difficult to start a small business today, principally because of the overwhelming amount of regulation. As at October this year, Nigeria dropped in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business Ranking. Of the 190 countries ranked, Nigeria is 146, dropping from its 145th position in 2017.

To continue to rank lower and lower on the business scale of the world is cause for hesitation even for the most creative and innovative investor. It signals uncertainty for long-term investors to grow by investing in their businesses, their people and creating jobs. The President must eliminate most of the current regulations and be wary of adding more, unless they have the overarching effect of moving Nigeria up in the Ease of Doing Business Index.

  1. Support Made-in-Nigeria.

Nigeria’s manufacturing industries need presidential support. To help build the economy, government must find ways to help Nigerian industries to compete with foreign manufacturers. Government must subsidise Nigerian manufacturers, to enable them manufacture quality products for less, so that Nigerian goods can compete with anyone, anywhere. The President must support Nigerian manufacturing by offering tax incentives to companies making the investment to grow the Nigerian industrial base and boost the nation’s Gross Domestic Product.

  1. Understand Business Better.

The President, whether the incumbent with a renewed mandate or a successful challenger, must (personally or by delegation) understand and come to terms with what makes business work, especially small business.

The formulation of policies and programmes for Nigerian businesses cannot be left to the administration of bureaucrats and appointees who have never met a payroll, or cannot tell the difference between a business plan and a marketing plan, or don’t understand the language of entrepreneurship and business ownership.

The President must talk entrepreneurship, celebrate small business as a key to growing the economy and translate these into policies that encourage investment in business. The President (and his team) must understand the sacrifice that goes into building a business.

  1. Make Tax Code Small Business-Friendly.

Big businesses have the experts and the resources to make sense of the tax laws and take full advantage of available tax breaks. But these are challenges for Small Business Owners and small businesses. They must comply with new tax requirements and rules, or suffer penalties for non-compliance.

The President must address the tax concerns of small businesses which include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Being subjected to multiple taxes by the different tiers of government, each with its own rigours and compliance costs.
  • Absence of harmonised tax regimes which strain their cash flows and limited resources.
  • Regulation by several government agencies, leading to significant and sometimes duplicated and usually significant compliance costs.
  • Inability to benefit from tax incentives because of the small size of their operations.

More important, because of the difficulties they face in raising finance, the inherent disadvantage of the tax system and the high cost of tax and regulatory compliance, the President must provide special and preferential tax regimes that directly encourage the growth of small businesses. The President should cut taxes on small businesses. Small Business Owners are low net worth individuals. They need low tax rates to grow their enterprises.

  1. National Business Accelerator Programme

Growing evidence indicates that most small businesses are unable to scale their operations. Consequently, their growth plateau, decline and, after a few years, they fail. The President should champion a National Business Acceleration Programme which, in turn, will increase the business success rate and make significant contribution to the Nigerian economy.

  1. Leave Business To Business.

The function of government is to create and nurture the environment for business to thrive, create jobs and grow. It’s not the other way around.

The President must realise that businesses innovate and compete best, locally and globally, when there is minimal regulation and interference by government. Businesses perform optimally when left to operate under open market forces, where consumers and customers, not political directives or interests, hold them accountable.

Bad government policies create uncertainty in the economy. The President should positively impact on small business and entrepreneurship by helping businesses to invest in growth. Businesses, Small or Big, need the confidence that government will support and not penalise their efforts. The President must say this, consistently and continuously, in words and in deeds.

  1. Re-Align the Core Curriculum.

The President should focus on improving the country’s education. The President should constitute an Education Task Force, with the objective of re-aligning and re-orienting the national curriculum to the jobs needed to manage and run today’s economy. New jobs are needed for the new economy, and the nation’s education and training institutions, at all levels, must re-tool to produce the skills and manpower to meet the emerging needs.

If you have something that you want the President to do for small business and it is not included in the list above, please share it with us via ted.iwere@smefinance.org

If you would like to contribute articles to the SME Finance, sign up here:https://smefinance.org

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