ISLAMABAD: With less than 200 days for the country to improve its ranking at the World Bank’s ease of doing business index, Prime Minister Imran Khan is set to be vigilantly monitoring the activities of the Board of Investment (BoI).
BoI has notified a ‘steering committee’ for the ease of doing business early this month, which will be chaired by PM with the representation of chief ministers or their representatives and members from five leading industries.
Though the same committee was also formed by the previous government, however, not a single meeting of the committee was held for the purpose of increasing Pakistan’s ranking in the index.
According to official sources, the committee was formed on November 7, 2018 to introduce reforms for an improvement in the investment climate in the country.
The BoI along with other provincial investment boards had tried to improve the country’s index at World Bank but it could only improve 11 points unlike other competitors such as India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. India had improved 23 points from 100 to 77 out of the 190 countries. Pakistan still stands at 136 out of those 190
“The issue has never been taken seriously at the higher levels. Through the previous government tasked BoI to do the job but it showed little interested in the improvement of the country’s ranking.
On the other hand, the Indian premier Narendra Modi in 2017, had himself supervised the doing business reforms to improve India’s rankings in a bid to invite foreign investment.” said the sources.
Apart from the legislation needed at the centre, the coordination between the provinces was needed to accomplish various tasks related to taxation, the registration of firms, procedures of documentation and their verification etc to facilitate business activities.
Though a number of steps have been taken by the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) and the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to improve Pakistan’s position in the global list of countries with the best climate for investment, they allegedly have not acknowledged the private sector so far.
According to analysts, an improvement in the WB index is necessary for a country like Pakistan to seek and secure foreign investment. The first thing the investors look into is the ranking of a country in terms of facilities and a then a business-friendly environment supported by the government through investment-friendly policies.
The doing business ranking and WB scores should instead be taken as symptom of a wider problem of Pakistan’s poor investment climate. Not only should such reforms be implemented across the country, but they should also have a broader scope covering factors that affect competitiveness, such as, strengthening institutions, ensuring policy predictability, improving labour force quality, capital market reforms, etc. Pakistan should also undertake a similar survey at the sub-national level to rank various cities in Pakistan on ease of doing business.
It may be recalled here that only 10 years ago, Pakistan was ranked 85th and then last year, gradually fell to the 147th position internationally.
Apart from the committee, the BoI chairman, Adviser to PM for Commerce, and the Adviser to PM on Institutional Reforms Dr Ishrat Hussain are also on the decision-making table on the matter.