Sindh introduces reforms to climb up the Ease of Doing Business ladder

Syed Murad Ali Shah, chief minister of Sindh, Abdul Razzak Dawood, Adviser to Prime Minister for Commerce, Textile, Industry and Production and Investment and Illango Patchamuthu, Country Director, World Bank launch Sindh Business Registration Portal. (Photo courtesy SID).
Updated 20 February 2019

Sindh introduces reforms to climb up the Ease of Doing Business ladder

  • Launches online registration portal to facilitate investors
  • Aims for Pakistan to be in the list of top 25 economies across the world by 2047

KARACHI: Pakistan’s Sindh province launched an online registration portal on Wednesday with an aim to improve the country's global ranking in terms of its ease of doing business.

The Sindh Business Registration Portal (SBRP) is part of reforms to ensure Pakistan's position is less than 100 in the global index. 

In the World Bank’s Doing Business Index issued last year, Pakistan had improved its position by 11 notches --from 147 to 136 -- out of 190 countries. The Sindh province plays an important role in facilitating the process as the port city of Karachi represents 65 percent of the country's business  community, followed by Lahore at 35 percent. 

“We have determination and a keen focus on improving the ease of doing business. The prime minister has given a target to come 100 or below for this year. The time is running out and we have only a couple of months left as the World Bank will start its evaluation in April," Abdul Razzak Dawood, Adviser to Prime Minister for Commerce, Textile, Industry and Production and Investment, said. 

“We are well on our way to come under 100," he added while highlighting the three areas where the country needs to improve. These include “taxation, giving permit for construction and property registration and getting electricity connections”.

Stressing on the need for the implementation of key policies, Dawood said the “ease of doing business is one of the most discussed topics wherever I go”.

The World Bank, for its part, has been providing technical support to the Sindh government for the implementation and facilitation of the reforms. The province has also had the support of the Department for International Development (DFID), in the UK.

“Pakistan now needs to move towards one single integrated market in which businesses [irrespective of whether] they operate from Karachi or Peshawar...can operate across the country without worrying about registering in Sindh or registering in Punjab or KP. This makes Pakistan the perfect location for local and foreign investments,” Illango Patchamuthu, Country Director, World Bank, said.  

He added that it was critical for the on-going momentum to be sustained in order to help Pakistan become a competitive and business-friendly investment destination. "The reforms are prominently featured in the [email protected] initiative which aims for the country to be in the top 25 economies globally by 2047," Patchamuthu said. 

Speaking at the occasion, Chief Minister Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah said that the Ease of Doing Business report was an important measure with economic and political consequences, and that the index had become one of the most important indicators for companies to choose which countries to invest in.

“Through this portal, the business community can complete the registration process for four different departments... We intend to include all provincial departments,” Murad said.

The SBRP will ensure businesses are able to register swiftly by providing access to a slew of online services, in addition to cutting down the cost, time and effort of visiting multiple government departments for the purpose. The portal will also link the four provincial and federal departments for a smoother and faster registration process.

Furthermore, the Punjab Information Technology Board has extended its technical support to the government of Sindh for designing, testing and launching the portal, in addition to training relevant departments to effectively use it to facilitate private sector investments.

Pakistan’s business community holds high hopes from PM’s US visit

Updated 15 July 2019

Pakistan’s business community holds high hopes from PM’s US visit

  • Eyes Preferential Trade Agreement with the US
  • Wants inclusion of textile goods in the United States’ GSP program

KARACHI: Pakistan’s business community wants the government to negotiate a Preferential Trade Agreement with the United States during the upcoming visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to Washington next week where he is scheduled to meet with US President Donald Trump on July 22.
The two leaders are expected to discuss a range of issues, including counterterrorism, defense, energy and trade, “with the goal of creating conditions for a peaceful South Asia and an enduring partnership between the two countries,” confirmed the White House ahead of the summit level meeting.
Founding chairman of the Pak-US Business Council, Iftikhar Ali Malik, said that “Pakistan has rendered huge sacrifices in the war on terror and its economy is suffering from the impact of the conflict in Afghanistan.”
“Pakistan deserves preferential business treatment without tariff and non-tariff barriers and free flow of bilateral trade, said Malik. “The US must help Pakistan build its industrial institutions, undertake joint ventures and increase investment in Pakistan.”
Pakistan is the 56th largest goods trading partner of the US, and the two countries had $6.6 billion of bilateral trade during 2018 where Pakistan’s imports totaled $2.9 billion and its exports with the US stood at $3.7 billion. The overall trade volume was in favor of Pakistan with surplus trade last year.
“The US goods trade deficit with Pakistan was $783 million in 2018, a 2.2% increase over 2017,” noted the office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) in one of its reports.
Pakistan’s major exports comprise of textile goods which stand at about 3 percent to US textile imports, while the country’s regional competitors, China, Bangladesh and India, have much higher contributions.
Members of the local business community say they want PM Khan to take up the issue of including his country, especially its textile products, in the US trade preference programs, such as the Generalized System of Preference (GSP). The program provides opportunities for many of the world’s least developed countries to use trade for their economic growth.
“We are not included in the GSP program of the United States and we want to avail this facility to increase the range of our textile products in US markets,” Junaind Makda, president of Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), told Arab News.
“If the US is persuaded to include Pakistan’s textile products in GSP, it will increase Pakistan’s exports up to $500 million because textiles contribute 90 percent to USA market from Pakistan,” Dr. Mirza Ifkhtiar Baig, senior vice president of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI), the apex body of businessmen and traders, said.
Many Pakistanis believe that the US government can rescue their country from the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and help soften the condition of the International Monetary Fund’s bailout package.
“The prime minister can take up the issue of FATF that has grey-listed Pakistan, as fears of further downgrading is hanging over our head like the sword of Damocles. Pakistan can also seek US help to ease the harsh conditions attached to the IMF bailout program,” Dr. Baig suggested.
Pakistani business community also seeks US help with urban forestry since “they have very good expertise related to environmental issues,” Makda said.
Pakistani businessmen, who are fed up with the constant inflow of smuggled goods, mainly from Afghanistan, also want the prime minister to raise this issue with the US authorities. “We need their help to stop smuggling from Afghanistan,” the KCCI president stressed.