Lahore : In keeping with its commitment to improve the investment environment in the province through ensuring ease of doing business, the Punjab Government on Wednesday launched the online Punjab Business Registration Portal to help businesses register from the comfort of home.
With its slogan of “Anytime, Anywhere”, the portal launched at the Lahore Chambers of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) promises speedy registration of businesses in “minutes” by providing access to a slew of online services, cutting down the cost, time and effort of visiting multiple government departments for the purpose. “We attach a lot of hope to the portal especially in relation to starting a business,” said Malik Tahir Javaid, President Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industries, the venue for the launch of the portal.
“Through the online portal, businesses can submit all required documents online to start registration immediately.” Starting a business is one of the ten World Bank’s Doing Business indicators on the basis of which 190 economies all over the world will be evaluated for business friendly reforms this year.
Of these four, starting a business, registering property, getting construction permits, contract enforcement fall under the provincial domain. In Pakistan, Doing Business data for these indicators is collected from private businesses in Lahore and Karachi, with Lahore contributing 35 percent and Karachi 65 percent of the country’s share.
According to the recently published World Bank’s flagship Doing Business Report 2018, Pakistan slipped by three points and now ranks at 147 out of 190 economies.
However, it registered progress on the Distance to Frontier (DTF) that shows the distance of each economy to the “frontier,” which represents the best performance observed on each of the indicators across all economies in the Doing Business indicators.”
While aiming to improve the overall business environment in the country, the Doing Business reform agenda pursued by the federal and provincial governments seeks to improve Pakistan’s ranking on the Doing Business Index. As part of the Punjab Government and World Bank’s 100 Days to Excellence in Doing Business Reform Plan, the business registration portal provides an online platform for business entities such as sole proprietorship, association of persons (firms), single member company, private and public limited companies to be registered thereby, eliminating the need for citizens to visit various departments in order to get a business registered.
As a result of this online facility, the registration processing time has been reduced from approximately 17 days to 2 days. The portal not only ensures timely issuance of online registration certificates but it also provides a tracking mechanism for the applications thus making the process more transparent.
“Our [the private and public] interests are common,” said Dr Ayesha Ghaus Pasha, Provincial Minister for Finance. “As an economist I believe in the greater role of private sector [in turning around the economy and creating employment.]
The government’s role is supportive.” Dr Pasha said the Government of Punjab had designed Growth Strategy 2018 to help accelerate economic growth and improve social indicators. “During the course of designing the strategy, we focused on improving the lives of ordinary people through creating employment opportunities.
This can only happen if the private sector grows, resulting in more investment.” She said if the Pakistani investors move ahead, it would encourage foreign investors to invest in Pakistan. In recent months, she said, the provincial government has taken several initiatives such as cutting down the time spent on registering property to 18 days, and time for construction permits reduced from 60 days to 20 days.
“A lot has been done to facilitate ease of business but it has not been communicated properly. The business community that makes opinion [about Pakistan’s image] need to more aware of this.
The LCCI can help create this awareness and how private investors can benefit from these reforms. ” Shaikh Allauddin, Punjab Minister for Industries, said the provincial government was adding final touches to its industrial policy, focusing on ensuring a credit-line for investors. “(News about the outflow of foreign exchange amounting to USD 2 billion is a point of concern for us). We have capital but it is going out.
This could be stopped through ease of doing business that will create employment opportunities.” Chairman Planning & Development Board Muhammad Jehanzeb Khan said that to improve the investment climate and create employment, the P&D Department had launched Punjab Jobs & Competitiveness (J&C) Program in collaboration with the World Bank Group. The program supports upgrading and development of industrial infrastructure through a private sector-led competitive process.
“Businesses and government need to stay in close coordination for us to help resolve issues [impeding private investment] in a timely manner,” said Jahanzeb Khan.
During the launch, Secretary Industries, Mujtaba Piracha mentioned that industries department and PITB are going to launch one window facility for businesses at Sundar Industrial Estate in the coming month to be followed by a similar facility at Faisalabad.
Dr Umar Saif, Chairman Punjab information Technology Board, said the Government of Punjab had a “renewed focus on ensuring ease of doing business” in the province. “By all accounts Pakistan has done great over the years – overcoming the energy deficit is one example,” said Mr Saif, who inaugurated the Punjab Business Registration Portal.
“The onus is on government to continue that momentum. The portal provides access to a host of services, making it easier for small businesses to work in Pakistan.
These are baby steps, a lot more need to be done such as online payment of business related fees and the need to make sure that taxes are filed once, not 49 times. We are cognizant of all this and the government is working to remove these impediments to business. In about 4 to 6 weeks, we will introduce online payment facility so businesses would not have to visit Pakistan to pay on fees. Online payment of fee and taxes will encourage businesses to start and expand.”
The LCCI President Malik Tahir Javaid said that decline in the ranking of Pakistan does not indicate that the government was not pursuing business reforms but because others countries were doing it at a faster pace.
“LCCI aims to bring Pakistan among the top 50 countries [on the Doing Business index]. I hope this portal will set the right momentum for this and bring together more collaborators to facilitate ease of business and investment in the province.”
Secretary P&D Iftikhar Ali Sahoo, Secretary Labor Farah Masood, DG PITB Sajid Latif and Ali Jalal Program Director, Program Implementation Unit (PIU), P&D Department and other senior representatives of Government departments and different chambers of commerce from across the province also attended the ceremony.