Reforms planned to ease business regulations

Updated January 31, 2019


A unified portal of the SECP and the Punjab government for business registration had already been put in place for startups, says BOI chairman. — File photo
A unified portal of the SECP and the Punjab government for business registration had already been put in place for startups, says BOI chairman. — File photo

ISLAMABAD: With an aim to get Pakistan included among top 50 countries on the global ranking of ease of doing business within the next five years, the government has planned measures to ensure simpler and friendlier regulations for business, said chairman of the Board of Investment (BOI) Haroon Sharif on Wednesday.

While addressing a press conference along with adviser to the prime minister on commerce and investment Abdul Razak Dawood, Mr Sharif said that automation of construction permits in Karachi and Lahore and property registration in Karachi were part of the reforms being introduced within the next three months.

Other measures such as integration of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) with Sindh portal as well as with Employees Old-age Benefits Institution (EOBI) for starting business, and improvement in risk management system to reduce the number of physical audits to 75 per cent would also be taken by March, he added.

Mr Sharif said Pakistan’s ranking on ease of doing business index jumped 11 points from 147 to 136. “We want to bring it down to less than 100 in the next two years,” the BOI chairman announced.

Pakistan aims for inclusion in top 50 countries on global index of ease of doing business, says board of investment chairman

For starting business, a unified portal of the SECP and the Punjab government for business registration had already been put in place, he said. As a result, the process and duration of registration was reduced to one day only, he added.

The BOI chairman said property registration was automated in Lahore with the result that the registration timing reduced from 56 to 18 days. He said the duration for getting electricity connection in Karachi was reduced to 185 days from the previous 215 days. He expressed the hope that these measures would help Pakistan get significant improvement in the global ranking of ease of doing business as per World Bank methodology.

Mr Sharif said the government would establish a registry that made small businesses easier to get loans by giving movable assets as collateral. Other proposed measures included contract enforcement and predictable power supply to businesses, he added.

The adviser to the prime minister on commerce said the PTI government was also working on simplifying the taxation system and visa regime, as attracting investment was government’s major priority area.

The BOI chairman said Pakistan embassies had been instructed to establish special visa desk to facilitate investors. He said dedicated business units would be established in each province to facilitate businessmen, besides making easy access to credit for fulfilling the financing requirements. He said business visa would be issued within 24 hours, while online visa facility with four countries had already been started to further ease the visa process. It would be extended to 60 countries in the next phase, he said.

As part of new visa regime, he said that restricted movements in Balochistan, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan were abolished.

Mr Dawood said investors from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Malaysia and China had shown keen interest in different sectors for investment. He said foreign investors were also interested in the food processing industries. Besides, the government expected huge investment in hotel and resorts industry, he added.

The adviser said all types of clearance would be given to businesses within a period of seven days. He said all kinds of facilities including industrial plots, gas and electricity connections would be provided in the existing industrial zones to facilitate prospective investors over the next two to three years. He added the existing industrial zone would be made functional soon.

He said various issues relating to Lahore Garments City, Karachi Garments City and Pakistan Textile City Limited would be resolved shortly.

Mr Sharif said that South Asia was among the fastest growing economies, attracting investment from across the world, adds APP.

He said the BOI in close coordination with the provincial governments was working to simplify the taxation system. Previously, about 47 types of manual payments were involved to start any business, he said. A one-window facility was introduced by taking the Federal Board of Revenue, SECP, provincial governments on board, which streamlined the procedures and brought down the number of payments from 47 to 16, he added.

In order to facilitate investment, he said that the scope of one-window operation was extended to property registration and a web portal was launched. He said the procedures for acquiring other utilities such as electricity, water and gas were also made online.

The BOI head said that government was working on 10 other indicators including cross-border trade with China, Afghanistan and India. For addressing the credit issues of exports, he said that the government had evolved a mechanism to pay back the returns. He said that one third of the refunds would be paid in cash whereas for remaining amount, the government would launch promissory bonds to pay their refund claims.

Published in Dawn, January 31st, 2019