Just a mention of any index measuring the ease of doing business would be enough for countless people to recall the difficulties faced in setting up or sustaining their business operations in Pakistan. Citing security threats as one of the reasons that has an impact on the ease of doing business might be a cliche now, but it does determine the way Pakistanis think, spend and live. The cost of doing business has also shot up and hence, it came as no surprise that Pakistan slid further in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index, ending up at 138th among 189 economies of the world. The PML-N might term the sliding down of the country by two places on the ranking a very small change, but the index is a comprehensive indicator of the state of affairs vis-a-vis the business environment. When it comes to paying taxes, the country is ranked 171st. Access to electricity is almost just as bad, as a ranking of 157 is nothing to be proud of.
The Doing Business Report 2016 is World Bank’s flagship annual publication and is considered influential in terms of gauging a country’s economic standing. The report might be downplayed by the government, but it gives a sense of what investors have to deal with if they wish to undertake operations in Pakistan. Businesses try all year long to beat the system that is plagued with bureaucratic red tape, bottlenecks, inefficient and unprofessional systems, and corrupt departments. The Board of Investment chairman has said that his department has worked on improving two areas: access to construction permits and enforcing contracts. But what about the other areas mentioned in the index? The government would argue that it had to face months-long sit-ins on its way to the downward slide. But when will it learn that it is the corruption and inefficiency of the system, comprising its own people that have made matters worse. With no accountability system in place, government departments get away with exploiting private sector businesses. This is the reason for the downward slide.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 30th, 2015.