ISLAMABAD-Adviser to Prime Minister on Commerce and Investment, Abdul Razak Dawood hoped the government to improve Ease of Doing Business (EoDB) ranking under 100 through comprehensive reforms strategy for providing conducive business environment to the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the country.

“We are expecting improvement of more than 20 positions this year in the overall score of World Bank (WB) EODB world annual Index report from position of 108 to 88 to attract more Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the country, Adviser, Abdul Razak Dawood told APP. The adviser said Pakistan had an unprecedented improvement in EoDB ranking last year and “We wanted to continue the momentum and build on our success in coming years,” he said. He said that Ease of Doing Business Pakistan has improved from 136 to 108 number of EoDB rank in last year 2019-20, which shows government’s commitment to improve business environment.

Replying to a question, he said this year the government was focusing on all 10 indicators measured by the World Bank Index annual report. He said that in this context 74 reform actions relating to these business indicators have been completed and being taken up with the DB team for their consideration. While talking on these reforms, Razak Dawood said the company registration and registration with all provincial authorities have become easy and online without involving human handling.

He said that company could now be registered in one day with Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) and Federal Board of Revenue (FBR). Replying to another question on provincial departments from improving EoDB, he said that data was transferred to Labour Department, Punjab Employees Social Security Institute (PESSI), Sindh Employees Social Security Institute (SESSI) and Employees’ Old-Age Benefits Institute (EOBI) in real time and only SECP portal was used.

End to End integration of 9 departments has been made and waiving off the fee by labour department Sindh will also reduce cost for businesses to be operated in Sindh as well, he said. He said that Punjab had already waived off labour fee last year and similarly omission of provisions regarding company’s common seal would lead to reduction in one procedure and associated time. SECP has notified the rules for Corporate Rehabilitation Act 2018. Now companies can get full benefits of resolution of insolvency.

He said that Lahore Development Authority (LDA) amended their by-laws to facilitate the applicants and has outsourced the inspections regime for the first time in Punjab. National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) has revised the Consumer Service Manual for ease of getting commercial connections and turn-around time for new connections has been reduced from 106 to 58 days, he said. He further said that the government of Punjab has also amended CPC Act to curtail adjournments and to comply time standards and apart from these initiatives, governments of Punjab and Sindh have also started ADR mechanism to promote out of the court settlement. Financial Institution (Secured Transactions) Act 2016 has been amended through an ordinance and under the law, an E-Registry has been established and businesses can keep their moveable property as collateral for getting credit. Replying to a question, he said that FBR has simplified and fully automated the procedure for Sales Tax Registration and now Sales Tax Registration Number (STRN) can be obtained within minutes. He said that EOBI, PESSI and SESSI have made the payment of pension contributions online. The Ministry of Commerce has removed the requirement of obtaining a Price Certificate for exports of cotton yarn, he said.

Replying to another question on the government introduced strategy for EoDB, to facilitate small business at local levels, he said that in addition to EoDB initiative, the government is also working on two other initiatives to facilitate small businesses at local level. He said that under Pakistan Regulatory Modernization Initiative (PRMI), Board of Investment has initiated mapping through federal ministries, divisions, organizations of various processes involved in granting of licenses, NOCs, permissions, approvals through a mapping exercise. Razak Dawood said that after mapping, redundant rules / regulations would be removed and remaining would be rationalised. This regulatory cleaning will reduce the road blocks for businesses and facilitate them to materialize their projects and plans.

The adviser said that besides, the government has also established a project management unit at BOI for facilitating companies and SMEs interested to park their industries at various SEZs established under SEZs as well as under CPEC industrial cooperation. Additionally, BOI facilitation wing is mandated to facilitate local and foreign investors for resolution of various issues during entry, stay and even during exit process, he said. He said that during last year BOI has been able to facilitate many companies for resolving of their issues and providing them support for getting permission for establishing branch and liaison offices and visa facilitation to businesses as well.