The Board of Investment launched the 7th Reform Action Plan collaboration with the World Bank Group.
The Secretary of the Board of Investment (BOI), Fareena Mazhar, stated that “The 7th Reform Action Plan is mainly focusing 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”.
She added that Pakistan has advanced 39 places to secure 108th place on the ease of doing business global ranking during the last two years.
While discussing how the recent initiatives facilitated the ease of doing business, she mentioned that the companies’ registrations through the Securities & Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) has shown growth of 63 percent, and 99 percent of these registrations were done online while 45 percent of the applicants were issued registration certificates on the same day.
She expressed full confidence in further improvements in Pakistan’s Doing Business ranking and commended the Governments of Sindh and Punjab, the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), and the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) for their full support and assistance.
The concerted efforts of the BOI and the federal and provincial agencies have resulted in the implementation of major reforms that are resolving decades’ old grievances in the private sector.
One of the most noticeable reforms has been the promulgation of commercial courts in Punjab. The milestone initiative reduces dispute resolution from 1000 days to 180 days. Similarly, Pakistan has joined the league of fewer than 1o jurisdictions that globally offer a single certification system. The single certificate can be applied for on the SECP portal. The digitization of land records is another landmark reform that eliminates on-ground inspection through the introduction of the Geographical Inspection System.
Addressing the ceremony, the Advisor to the Prime Minister on Commerce and Investment, Abdul Razak Dawood, spoke about the various initiatives taken by the government to promote economic growth such as tax reforms, improved trade policy, implementation of the new ‘RAAST’ payment system, the revised Foreign Exchange Manual so businesses can bring in and take out forex easily, a new tariff rationalization initiative that has created investment opportunities in the engineering, textile, iron and steel, auto, pharmaceutical, corporate dairy, paper products, poultry, and tourism sectors.
He said that he is confident that the 7th Reform Action plan will improve Pakistan’s business environment.
Razak disclosed that the government has initiated a doing business agenda at a larger scale in the form of the ‘Pakistan Regulatory Modernization Initiative’ that is aimed at reducing the regulatory compliance burden on businesses.
Additional Secretary BOI, Mukarram Jah Ansari, briefed the attendees about the methodology of the doing business reports and the highlights of the reforms undertaken over the last two years, and explained the reforms that are to be undertaken in the 7th Action Plan.
He said that as per the Compliance Cost Savings (CCS) Survey, the business reforms undertaken from 2017-2020 have resulted in 69 million USD savings for businesses.
While talking about the 7th Action plan, the Additional Secretary said that the BOI and the federal and provincial stakeholders aim to achieve 85 reforms, including simultaneous registration for NTN & STRN under Starting a Business, the piloting of the first phase of the Pakistan Single Window to integrate Government Departments into Trading Across Borders, and the Implementation of e-stamping in Sindh for property registration, etc.
He said, “We are very confident that Pakistan will make a big jump in DB Report 2023 and improve from our current ranking of 108th to 75th position”.
The representative of the British High Commission, Richard Ough, emphasized the need for continued progress and government coordination to improve Pakistan’s business environment, particularly through the Pakistan Regulatory Modernization Initiative (PRMI) and seeing significant reforms such as General Sales Tax Harmonization.
The UK is a proud supporter of the Government of Pakistan in these efforts, including wider macro-economic reforms.
The Operations Manager for Pakistan at the World Bank, Gailius J. Draugelis, praised the efforts of the federal and provincial governments in cooperating to improve Pakistan’s investment climate in Pakistan. He stressed the need for greater interprovincial coordination in developing a regulatory framework based on mutual recognition to prevent duplication and reduce the compliance burden on businesses.
Ansari added that “the competition for business environment reforms is intensifying and a collaborative effort is needed for Pakistan to secure a place as one of the top reformers going forward”.
The Regional Head of Operations for the IFC, Shabana Khawar, seconded the importance of collaborating and ensuring timely implementation of business reforms.
She said that “the 7th Ease of Doing Reform Action Plan can play a transformative role in catalyzing private investments and SME growth. At the same time, it will be necessary for the government to closely monitor the impact of doing business reforms and ensure investors both here and abroad take stock of it.”