Business Reforms – Promise of a better future for Pakistan

What do the ongoing business reforms mean for the people of Pakistan?

The progress of a country can be gauged from the job opportunities its people have, and that is dependent on how well the country’s business climate is doing. The more there are businesses being set up, the more are the number of jobs being created.  Studies show that every year, 1.7 million young people reach working age in Pakistan, and some four million young people between the ages of 15-24 years are unemployed. The numbers are expected to escalate to 8.6 million by 2020. In this backdrop, one of the most important things that Pakistan needs to do is up its game when it comes to improving the investment climate. The more Pakistan works on making doing business easier and smoother, the more will Pakistan act as an investment magnet.

Luckily, this may have started happening already, and the government seems serious about making the country business-friendly. For this, what is being work on are Doing Business Reforms that help making the process of business easier, smoother, quicker and more transparent. The World Bank is providing technical support and assistance in this endeavour.

What has helped encourage the government’s recent thrust on this area is the fact Pakistan’s ranking was falling on the World Bank’s flagship annual report on Ease of Doing Business. In this report, 190 economies are evaluated for their ease of business reforms and business friendly environment. In Pakistan, the report surveys the investment situation in leading commercial cities, namely Karachi contributing to Pakistan’s ranking by 65 per cent and Lahore contributing by 35 per cent. With an aim to improve both Pakistan’s investment climate as well as Pakistan’s ranking on the World Bank’s Doing Business benchmarks, Pakistan is currently pursuing 44 reforms across a range of indicators, with reforms currently focused on:

  • starting a business
  • registering property
  • enforcing contracts
  • dealing with construction permits

Reforms are also being forged in other areas, with work being done on the indicator “Trading Across Borders” among others.

Because Karachi is such an important contributor to the country’s economy as a business hub, the Government of Sindh is working on these reforms on the province at an accelerated pace. These reforms are spearheaded by the Sindh Board of Investment (SBI), under the leadership of its Chairperson Ms Naheed Memon.

How these reforms are simplifying the process of doing business in Sindh is both encouraging and interesting. See a few examples from the area of Registering a Property owing to recent reforms: The time required to register property has been reduced from 208 days to just 17 days. Online services have been started by Board of Revenue (BoR) Sindh for which you can go to www.sindhzameen.gos.pk or download the App SindhZameen®. Because of this online system, many delays and inconveniences that were due to obsolete systems are now being replaced by a quicker smarter system.

53

reduction in procedures to obtain Construction Permits

50

reduction in time to grant construction permits

65.5

reduction in time for commercial water and sewerage connections

9

number of approvals waived for selected projects by SEPA

30

reduction in turnaround time for providing new power connections

Now let’s take a look at some reforms in the area of Construction Permits: The number of procedures to obtain Construction Permits reduced from 15 to 7. The Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) has waived Floor Certificate requirements from selected projects. SBCA has also reduced the time to grant construction permits from 60 to 30 days and for completion certificates from 45 to 30 days. The Karachi Water & Sewerage Board (KWSB) has reduced the timeframe for commercial water and sewerage connections from 61 to 21 days. Environmental Approval has been waived for 9 selected projects by Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA). Also, getting an electricity connection from K-Electric has been made quicker and easier, and have reduced the turnaround time for providing new power connection by 30% in 2017 as compared to the previous year.

Very recently, the fastest reform in the Doing Business journey came through when The Sindh Energy Department amended its SOP to reduce the inspection time taken by the Electric Inspector for new connections. The fitness certificates will now be issued within 3 days.

All of this seems to be going in the right direction – towards serious business reforms that will help make Pakistan, and Sindh in particular, an easier place to set up businesses, industries and entrepreneurships. As a Pakistani, and as a Karachiite, I find this to be a ray of hope – the hope that these reforms continue and get followed up. This the Government owes to us, to the people of Pakistan.

Want to start your own business?

Check out the Sindh Doing Business website for resources and information.