LAHORE: The Punjab Government has launched it’s “100 days to Excellence in Doing Business Reform Plan” to facilitate businesses and start-ups in order to improve the investment environment in the province.
The plan is in line with the Punjab Growth Strategy 2018 in which the government has set an economic growth target of 8 per cent.
Punjab is home to approximately 53 per cent of Pakistan’s total population. According to the Punjab Growth Strategy 2018, its rapidly growing population necessitates the creation of approximately 1 million quality jobs.
“For the economy to grow and flourish, improving the business environment is indispensable,” Planning and Development (PD) Department Secretary Iftikhar Ali Sahoo told media on the occasion of the launch of the reform plan.
“The government of Punjab has launched a number of initiatives to improve business and economy in collaboration with the World Bank (WB). 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 initiative,” he continued.
While aiming to improve the business environment of the province, the 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, Pakistan registered progress on its Distance to Frontier (DTF) score by 51.65 percentage points. DTF shows the distance of each economy from the ‘frontier’, that 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. According to the WB’s flagship Doing Business Report, India’s ranking improved from 130 to 100 – something that business and economics observers have attributed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi taking a personal interest in the economy.
“Ease of doing business involves introducing major reforms across departments like the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), State Bank and other national institutions which cannot be done without personal interest from the top leadership,” said Sahoo.
“This is why the Prime Minister has set up a steering committee under his chairmanship which includes top officials from these departments. The committee is tasked to follow up on the reform and implementation process,” he added.
World over, the most vibrant economies are usually the ones where the economic environment is facilitative to small and medium enterprises.
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],” said a senior World Bank representative.
“It is important that when reform happens, businesses should feel the impact and contributors should see implementation [to respond favourably to the survey]. In Pakistan, there has been recognised progress around four reforms in Doing Business Report 2018 which include, ease of starting a business, ease in property registration, protecting minorities and facilitating cross-border trade. Reforms across these have contributed to improving Pakistan’s image,” he further commented.
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 per cent; Lahore’s is 35 per cent.
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 fruits that can generate the greatest impact in terms of improving Pakistan’s rating and Punjab’s relation to these four indicators,” said Punjab PD Programme Implementation Unit Programme Director Ali Jalal.
“But other than the ranking, for us in the government, the incentive is to really improve the business and investment environment,” he continued.
Journalists at the briefing wanted to know why only Lahore and Karachi had been selected for the survey.
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.”