ISLAMABAD: The World Bank on Tuesday ranked Pakistan at 147th out of 190 countries in its ‘Doing Business 2018’ report.

The report noted that Pakistan implemented four business reforms in 2017 — making it easier to register a new business, transfer commercial property and facilitate cross border trade.

Pakistan is among the South Asian economies that carried out a record 20 business reforms in the past year, bringing to a total of 127 the number of reforms enacted in the region over the past 15 years, says the report which monitors the ease of doing business for small and medium-enterprises around the world.

Of the four business reforms implemented by Pakistan, a major one dealt with starting a business easily by replacing the need to obtain a digital signature for company incorporation with a less costly personal identification number. This change applies to both Karachi and Lahore.

In the second instance, Karachi improved the transparency of the land registration process by publishing online the fee schedule and the list of documents necessary to complete any property registration Thirdly, the country increased minority investor protections by making it easier to sue directors in case of prejudicial transactions with interested parties. This reform applies to both Karachi and Lahore Lastly, Pakistan made importing and exporting easier by developing a new container terminal and enhancing its customs platform for electronic document submission. These changes apply to both Karachi and Lahore.

According to the regional profile of South Asia, doing business indicators show that Pakistan ranked 172nd in paying taxes; in trading across borders, the ranking was 171st; enforcing contracts, ranking 156th; resolving insolvency ranked 82nd; protecting minority investors ranked 20th; getting credit ranked 105th; registering property ranked 170th; getting electricity ranking 167th; dealing with construction permits ranking 141st; starting business ranking 142nd; and business environment ranking 147th.

A major focus of reforms in the past year in South Asia was in the area of protecting minority investors, with half of the region’s eight economies implementing measures to strengthen protections for minority shareholders.

The reforms included enhanced remedies to address cases of prejudicial transactions between interested parties in India; rules to clarify ownership and control structures in Bhutan; greater corporate transparency in Nepal; and facilitating legal action against directors in case of prejudicial transactions with interested parties in Pakistan.

South Asia is the only region not represented in the top 50 ranking for ease of doing business. However, India stands out this year as one of the 10 economies that improved the most in the areas measured by Doing Business.

Since the start of Doing Business, all eight regional economies have carried out a total of 127 reforms. Starting a business, with 25 reforms, was the leading indicator for regional reforms.

Fifteen years ago, it cost over 40 per cent of the value of a claim to enforce a contract in the region; now, it takes less than 30pc, which is better than the global average of 33pc. Bhutan has made the largest improvement in this area. Fifteen years ago, it cost 90pc of the value of a claim to enforce a contract in Bhutan; now, it takes 23pc, placing the country in the top 25 globally in this area.

Published in Dawn, November 1st, 2017