ISLAMABAD - Pakistan has informed the World Bank that federal and provincial governments had taken several steps for ease of doing business since June 2017.

Pakistan is struggling to improve the business climate in the country since last couple of years.

Pakistan had ranked a lowly 147th among 190 economies on the Word Bank's Ease of Doing Business Index last year. The World Bank index is used as a guide by foreign investors to learn more about a country.

Two members World Bank Doing Business team are currently visiting Pakistan to validate data and observe reform efforts of the present government for Doing Business Report 2019.

In this context, Board of Investment (BoI) being secretariat of Doing Business Reform hosted a meeting under the chairmanship of Executive Director General (EDG), BoI Fareena Mazhar.

Fareena gave a detailed presentation on Reform Actions taken by federal and provincial agencies for improving business climate since June 2017.

She highlighted that 85 percent of the reform actions planned under Sprint I (from January 2018-March 2018) have been completed that shows an encouraging performance.

The EDG informed the delegation that steps for starting a business in Pakistan have been reduced from 12 to 4.  E-services are operational with merging of 3 procedures and removal of 2 procedures.

She said that paying taxes is easier now as Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has introduced several reforms including e payment system and activated Sales Tax Real Time Invoice Verification (Strive) system to reduce time for filing taxes by 50 percent.

Giving further details, Fareena said that for trading across borders, I-form and E-form have been integrated into Web Based One Customs (WeBOC) along with certificate of origin.

Since June 2017, WeBOC has also been integrated with six departments involved in custom clearances i.e., Plant Protection, Animal Quarantine, Seed Certification, Ministry of Commerce, TDAP and NTC resulting in significant reduction in time and cost involved in the custom clearances.

Apart from reform efforts, Data Challenge was also conveyed to the World Bank team for the indicators of Trading across Borders and Getting Credit in which Pakistan's ranking should have been better than what was depicted in doing business Report 2018. While appreciating the continuous efforts of the Provincial Governments, she explained that for dealing with construction permits time has been reduced from 272 to 32 days in Karachi and from 266 to 18 days in Lahore.

Moreover, digitalization has been introduced for land registration in Karachi and Lahore resulting in transparency and facilitation to the customers.

In Lahore, Alternate Dispute Resolution Mechanism has been introduced along with three Mediation Centers to facilitate out of court settlement of disputes.

She further informed that delegation that Business Registration Portals have been established in Lahore and Karachi integrating all major departments for starting a business ie, Labour Department, SESSI, PESSI etc.

BOI team responded to the questions raised by World Bank team regarding coordination, monitoring and communication mechanisms for the presented reforms.

The World Bank team appreciated the work done during this business cycle and commented that reforms initiated by Pakistan were substantial and the investors and businesses will benefit from them.

Various meetings with federal and provincial agencies and contributors are planned during the visit of the World Bank delegation.