WB’s decision to discontinue ‘Doing Business Report’ irks Islamabad

Published September 19, 2021
A participant stands near a logo of World Bank at the International Monetary Fund - World Bank Annual Meeting. — Reuters/File
A participant stands near a logo of World Bank at the International Monetary Fund - World Bank Annual Meeting. — Reuters/File

ISLAMABAD: The World Bank’s decision to discontinue ‘Doing Business Report’ has irked Pakistan which was confident that the country would make a big jump in the next report to improve the current ranking of 108th to 75th position this year.

During the last two years, Pakistan advanced 39 places to secure 108th place on the ease of doing business global ranking. The companies’ registration through the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) has shown a 63 per cent growth and 99pc of these registrations were done online while 45p applicants were issued registration certificates on the same day.

Commenting on the World Bank’s decision, Board of Investment (BoI) Secretary Fareena Mazhar was confident that the work which the BoI was doing in the context of regulatory reforms would provide an edge in terms of any future mapping criteria.

BoI says regulatory reforms will give Pakistan an edge in terms of future mapping criteria

The World Bank said in a statement that it would be working on a new approach to assessing the business and investment climate in the countries.

Last month, the BoI in collaboration with the World Bank Group launched the Seventh ‘Reform Action Plan’ which focused on improvements in firm entry regulations, reliability of electricity, tax regulations, trade regulations, creditors’ rights, better property rights, and court efficiency, etc., as reforms in these areas play a major role in accelerating economic development.

The concerted effort of the BoI and federal and provincial agencies has resulted in implementation of major reforms that are resolving decades-old grievances of the private sector.

One of the most noticeable reforms has been the promulgation of commercial courts in Punjab. The milestone initiative brings down the dispute resolution from 1,000 to 180 days.

Similarly, Pakistan has joined the league of fewer than 10 jurisdictions globally that offer single certification system. The single certificate can be applied at the SECP portal. Digitisation of land records is another landmark reform that eliminates on ground inspection by introduction of Geographical Inspection System.

The World Bank statement says after data irregularities on Doing Business 2018 and 2020 were reported internally in June 2020, the bank management decided to pause the next ‘Doing Business Report’ and initiated a series of reviews and audits of the report and its methodology. The bank’s decision is based on a 16-page investigative report which says four countries manipulated their rankings in 2017 and 2018 reports.

In January this year, the World Bank group carried out investigations to review the internal circumstances at the bank that contributed to the data irregularities identified in the Doing Business 2018 and 2020 reports. Investigations were made to understand how improper changes to the data for China and Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Azerbaijan were effected, and who at the bank directed, implemented, or knew about the changes to the data and how their direction or pressure manifested; and what internal circumstances whether related to policies, personnel, or culture, allowed for the changes to take place.

The WB says: “Trust in the research of the World Bank Group is vital. World Bank Group research informs the actions of policymakers, helps countries make better-informed decisions, and allows stakeholders to measure economic and social improvements more accurately. Such research has also been available tool for the private sector, civil society, academia, journalists, and others, broadening understanding of global issues.

Published in Dawn, September 19th, 2021

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