KARACHI: Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, Adviser to Prime Minister Abdul Razak Dawood, and World Bank Country Director Patchamuthu Illangovan launched the 'Sindh Doing Business Reforms Exhibition II' and the Sindh Business Registration Portal (SBRP) on Wednesday as part of the Ease of Doing Business Reforms in the province. The event was hosted by the Sindh Board of Investment.
The World Bank and United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID) have been providing support to the provincial government for the facilitation and implementation of Doing Business Reforms.
The SBRP has been launched as an online regulatory for approvals and as an inspection interface. The portal will speed up the business registration process by providing access through online services. It minimises the cost, time and effort of visiting multiple government departments for this purpose.
New businesses in Sindh will benefit from this easier registration process. Entrepreneurs will be able to register their businesses with four provincial departments through the portal, including the Labour department, Sindh Employees Social Security Institution, Industries department and the Excise and Taxation department.
Sindh CM vows to introduce investment, business reforms
The portal will also provide links between the four provincial departments and federal departments such as NADRA and the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP)
Improving business conditions
World Bank's report, Doing Business Index, showed the improvement in Pakistan's global rank in the past year. Pakistan ranked 136 out of 190 in 2018, as compared to 147 in the previous year, having risen 11 places on the Index.
The province of Sindh has contributed substantially to this improvement. Karachi holds 65% weightage in the Doing Business methodology whereas Lahore accounts for 35% of the improved ranking.
Reforms to make Karachi a city which is conducive to businesses with healthy competition and easy access to business markets have enabled improving conditions. Many reforms have already been implemented and are in practice at relevant government departments.
One of the most salient features of these reforms is the SBRP along with which, the Sindh Board of Revenue has launched a Portal for Tracking Property Deeds. Through this portal citizens will be able to check the progress of their property registrations online.
Speaking on the occasion, Shah said that the first quarter of the 21st century has seen our region turned into an engine of growth for the world economy. "In this fast-changing world, Pakistan must make the right policy choices, focus on human development and create an environment conducive to economic development," said the chief minister.
With regards to the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business report, Shah said that it was an important measure of economic and political indicators. He elaborated that it was a measure used by companies when deciding which countries to invest in as well as an index on which countries compete and the success of government's is measured.
Sindh looks at reforms to climb Ease of Doing Business Index
"There is enough evidence to show that Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflows are higher for economies performing better on the Doing Business Index," he said.
Shah claimed that the Sindh government was committed to undertake more reforms and adopt policies that create an enabling environment for the private sector, and make doing business easy in the province.
"The private sector provides jobs - currently a challenge in our country, generates revenue for the country and triggers a virtuous cycle of skilled population and financial inclusion," said the chief minister.
The Ease of Doing Business Reforms are aimed at facilitating domestic and foreign investors. The latter not only provide employment opportunities but also bring with them modern technologies.
In Sindh reforms have been made in four categories, according to the chief minister. These include, starting a business, registering property, getting construction permits and getting electricity.
The chief minister highlighted some of the achievements so far within the business community in the province.
These included the Sindh Board of Revenue People's Service Centre's (LARMIS) success in reducing the time taken to buy and register properties by more than 90%. Besides, 90% of land records, maintained since 1985, from 29 districts of the province have been computerised and verified by district deputy commissioners.
The portal launched on Wednesday will further ease this process and allow citizens to track their property deeds online, added the chief minister.
Shah also stated that the Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) exempted three no objection certificates (NOCs) and managed to reduce procedural steps to obtain construction permits from 15 to seven.
He mentioned that the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) has exempted low impact projects from approval and has improved its service delivery time frame. It is a significant step achieved in record time to deregulate our business environment, claimed Shah.
According to Shah, the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board has also simplified its procedures and improved its service delivery timeline by more than 50%. Commercial connections are now provided in 21 days as compared to 61 days previously, said Shah.
Appreciating the support of the World Bank, the chief minister said that Illangovan had helped to link the government with the private sector and communicate the reforms to businesses and citizens effectively. Shah expressed his support for the World Bank's Top 20 Business Cities initiative in 2020. "We will ensure that the cities of Sindh participate fully in this competition," he said.
Shah emphasised on the need for inter-provincial coordination and cooperation between federal and provincial governments. "We have never shied away from extending on invoking support from other provinces and federal departments to achieve our common objective of a prosperous Pakistan," said the chief minister.
He appreciated the technical assistance extended by the Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) for the development of the SBRP and welcomed the delegation from Punjab which had come to attend the event.
Dawood reassured of the federal government's commitment to creating an environment conducive to businesses in the country and to the Ease of Doing Business Reforms in his keynote address.
Meanwhile, Illangovan lauded Sindh government for spearheading the 100 days of Doing Business Reforms and said he looked forward to the next set of 100 days which commenced on Wednesday.
The World Bank country director added that it was critical for the on-going momentum of business reforms to sustain in Pakistan in order to help the country become a competitive destination for investment and business, particularly as the country aims to be in the top 25 economies of the world by 2047.
Others who spoke on the occasion included, Planning and Development Chairperson Muhammad Waseem and Investment Department Secretary Ahsan Ali Mangi.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 21st, 2019.
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