LAHORE: The Punjab government has launched the 100 Days to Doing Business Reform Plan to facilitate businesses and start-ups to improve the investment environment in the province, in keeping with Punjab Growth Strategy 2018 which sets the target of achieving 8 per cent economic growth.
According to Census 2017, Punjab is home to approximately 53 per cent of Pakistan’s total population. It is the second largest province with a population as high as 110 million. The rapidly growing population necessitates creation of approximately 1 million quality jobs, according to the Punjab Growth Strategy 2018.
At the launching ceremony of the plan here Saturday, the Planning and Development Department’s Secretary Iftikhar Ali Sahoo told media that for the economy to grow and flourish, improving the business environment was indispensable.
The government of Punjab has launched a spate of initiatives to ease up doing business procedures in collaboration with the World Bank. This agenda is being driven at the top level in collaboration with multiple provincial departments and agencies. More importantly, the private sector has been engaged throughout the conception and implementation phase of the reform initiatives.
While aiming to improve the business environment of the province, the Doing Business reform agenda also seeks to improve Pakistan’s ranking on the Doing Business Index.
According to the recently published World Bank’s flagship Doing Business Report 2018, Pakistan slipped by three points and now ranks at 147 out of 190 economies. However, it registered progress on the Distance to Frontier (DTF) by 51.65.
The DTF shows the distance of each economy to the “frontier,” which represents the best performance observed on each of the indicators across all economies in the Doing Business indicators. An economy’s distance to frontier is measured on a scale from 0 to 100, where 0 represents the lowest performance and 100 represents the frontier. The ease of doing business ranking ranges from 1 to 190.
He said that the prime minister had set up a steering committee under his chairmanship with top officials from these departments tasked to follow up on the reform and implementation process. World over, economies where small and medium size enterprises find investment environment conducive through facilitation are the most vibrant.
The WB Doing Business Reform ranking is based on a survey launched in February every year, with contributors from the private sector participating actively in the evaluation survey. The report measures 11 indicators – from laws, frameworks and procedures facilitating or hampering starting of an enterprise to others across the life cycle of a business.
“It is like a race for countries who want to be at the top (in terms of appeal to investors). It is important that when reform happens, businesses should feel the impact and contributors should see implementation (to respond favourably to the survey),” said senior World Bank representative.
In Pakistan, there has been recognized progress around four reforms in Doing Business Report 2018 – from ease of starting a business to property registration, protecting minority and facilitating cross border trade. Reforms across these have contributed to improving Pakistan’s image. The report usually surveys the investment situation in leading commercial cities with a population over a million. Karachi’s contribution to Pakistan’s ranking is 65 percent; Lahore’s is 35 percent.
Pakistan is currently pursuing 44 reforms across a range of indicators with Punjab initiating reforms aimed at registering property, enforcing contracts, dealing with construction permits and starting a business.
“The Hundred Days Plan is aimed at low hanging fruit that can generate the greatest impact in terms of improving Pakistan’s rating and Punjab’s relate to these four indicators,” said Ali Jalal, Programme Director, Programme Implementation Unit of Punjab P&D. “But other than the ranking, for us in the government the incentive is to really improve the business and investment environment,” he added.
Punjab P&D Secretary Sahoo said that reforms are piloted for implementation in the main commercial cities for their efficacy and then extended to other cities at a later stage.
“Earlier it was about nationalization and business control, now it is about opening up. But our structures are still outmoded and obsolete. Reforms are meant to change that,” he remarked.