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Foreign investment tag along ease of doing business progress

By the time these lines will go in print, World Bank must have issued their Ease of Doing Business Report 2020 in which Pakistan is likely to improve its ranking from 136th position out of 190 countries. Considering the current state of the national economy and the highly pessimistic economic prospects projected for the current and subsequent years in the short run by various national and multilateral organizations it is indeed a matter of immense satisfaction that the World Bank has listed Pakistan among the top 20 countries that introduced reforms in ease of doing business. The World Bank declared Pakistan among top 20 reformers as Islamabad clinched top position by making progress on six indicators out of ten among South Asian economies. India made improvements on four reforms and Bangladesh three reforms. China made progress on eight indicators while Saudi Arabia clinched top position by making improvement in nine indicators out of total ten.

The six areas measured by ‘Doing Business’ are: starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, paying taxes and trading across borders. Pakistan could have shown improvement in eight indicators in World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business (EODB) report 2020 instead of six if the country had undertaken reforms on two key fronts, including reforming district courts and disbursement of loans to the SME sector. Pakistan’s improvement in the six areas is a reflection of the country’s development of an ambitious reform strategy, including the establishment of a national secretariat and prime minister’s reform steering committee. Further, in association with the provincial governments of Punjab and Sindh, the Board of Investment (BoI) in October 2018 had launched ‘Doing Business Reforms Plan’ aimed at facilitating businesses and improving the investment climate. Pakistan had made the process of starting a business easier by expanding procedures available through the online one-stop shop.

 

When the present government assumed the office, the economy was facing multiple challenges relating to fiscal, external and real sector of the economy. The unaddressed macroeconomic imbalances and long awaited structural reforms needed urgent policy actions. To address these issues, the present government thus introduced a comprehensive set of economic and structural reforms and the impact of macroeconomic adjustment and demand management policies for stabilization were now visible as FY2019 witnessed moderate growth of 3.3 percent.

Pakistan follows a liberal investment regime for investors’ confidence and conducive environment to attract local and foreign investment. During September FY 2020, the FDI recorded at $385.3 million showing an increase of 75.6 percent as against $182.1 million during the same month last year. Investments in tourism had the potential to generate over half a million new direct and induced jobs over the next five years. To increase the number of tourist, the government had introduced an open Online Visa System for the citizens from 50 countries. The government had allocated Rs. 2 billion for Clean Green Pakistan Movement/Tourism in budget 2019-20.

Pakistan has sought foreign investment in energy sector with the government stepping up efforts to ensure availability and security of sustainable oil and gas supply to boost economic development and meet strategic requirement of the country. Egyptian companies will be investing $1 billion in Pakistan. Investment will mainly be in energy, building, pharmaceutical, Halal food and tourism sectors.

The writer is a Karachi based freelance columnist and is a banker by profession. He could be reached on Twitter @ReluctantAhsan

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