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ISLAMABAD: The Board of Investment (BOI) in collaboration with the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the UK organised a seminar on “Doing Business Reforms in Pakistan” and launched “6th Ease of Doing Business Reform Action Plan’’ and the BOI’s “Investment Promotion Strategy 2020-2023”, here on Thursday.

Presentations were given by the BOI, highlighting reforms planned for 6th reforms cycle for DB report 2022, and for the new Investment Promotion Strategy.

The World Bank Country Director for Pakistan, Najy Benhassine appreciated the efforts of the federal government as well as the provincial governments of Punjab and Sindh.

He stated that reform process needed a lot of efforts on the behalf of the public sector.

“I am quite impressed noting the 39 position jumps in Ease of Doing Business ranking in the last two years,” he added.

He further highlighted that improvement in Ease of Doing Business in Pakistan was the result of collective and coordinated efforts by the federal and provincial governments of Sindh and Punjab over the last few years.

“This momentum needs to be sustained in the coming years for Pakistan to continue to make progress” he stressed.

Fareena Mazhar, secretary BOI informed the participants that over the last five years Pakistan’s investment to GDP ratio on average is 15 percent, whereas the average investment to GDP ratio of regional countries such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India and Thailand was around 25 percent.

She expressed optimism that better and conducive business climate would be instrumental to improve investment and growth.

She stated that Pakistan was fully committed to make Pakistan a business friendly destination.

She appreciated the efforts of various federal and provincial departments for improving business environment in the country.

The secretary BOI specifically mentioned Pakistan Regulatory Modernization Initiative (PRMI) and also highlighted that every province had its own comparative and competitive advantage, and providing enabling business environment was the key to make good use of this advantage.

While referring to excellent coordination between federal and provincial governments of Sindh and Punjab, Fareena Mazhar said that it had become a successful model of collaboration and would be replicated in other federating units as well for the benefit of the whole country and its citizens.

The secretary BOI also underscored the importance of strengthening BOI’s efforts to promote investment in Pakistan.

The BOI’s new investment promotion strategy focuses on proactively engaging investors in priority sectors and ensuring that BOI provides the support and facilitation services needed to assist them with their investments.

Supporting existing investors to solve regulatory and other issues is a key part of the BOI’s commitment to serve investors in Pakistan.

Mukarram Jah Ansari, additional secretary BOI has given a presentation focusing on reform trajectory of Pakistan under the umbrella of Ease of Doing Business initiative.

He highlighted the key reforms undertaken during this year and planned for the next year, which include simple tax regime, online facilities with respect to construction permit and land registration.

He also mentioned various amendments undertaken to facilitate the businesses.

While referring to the 6th Reform Action Plan, Ansari underlined few key initiatives such as online complaints by the NEPRA, online banking account opening facility by the SECP, designating commercial courts in Sindh, and national one-window for trading across borders.

Riffat Pervaiz, executive director general BOI, briefed the participants about the new investment promotion strategy 2023.

The new strategy is impact oriented and focused investor-conceived market-driven projects.

This strategy is devised to attract investors, facilitate their startups and nurture their long term expansion and linkages.

Quratul Ain, director, Sindh Investment Department stated that Sindh government is very keen for the improvement of business environment in the province and informed that Sindh Doing Business Reforms Council (SDBRC) had already been actively working to this end.

He also apprised the participants that a dedicated Doing Business Reforms Implementation Unit was coordinating with all the government functionaries, private sector organisations and all other related business stakeholders, so that anyone who wanted to start or run a business in Sindh, could easily get licenses, permits and other relevant permissions.

Imran Sikandar Baloch, secretary P & D, Punjab stated that the Government of Punjab was striving hard to implement comprehensive reform agenda.

Obtaining a building permit has been simplified through electronic submission of applications and integration of the WASA and TEPA with the LDA.

He also intimated that a host of measures had been taken to facilitate registering property and contract enforcement in Punjab.

Shabana Khawar, principal country officer, International Finance Corporation Pakistan congratulated the BOI and other relevant agencies for a big achievement in Ease of Doing Business.

She also emphasized on the vital role of the BOI in attracting investment for the country. She was of the view that new investment strategy owing to the Covid-19 was a very timely process.

Both the World Bank and the IFC assured to continue their cooperation with the BOI and the provincial government with an objective to improve investment climate in Pakistan.

Mukarram Jah Ansari, additional secretary BOI, while concluding the session on the behalf of the chairman BOI, acknowledged the efforts of all the stakeholders, and stated that Pakistan had consistently made efforts to improve the business environment in the country in collaboration with the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation and the UKaid.

He expressed her gratitude to these institutions for their support in the EODB and the PRMI initiatives, and for supporting the BOI to strengthen its investment promotion strategy and capacity.

At the end, secretary BOI along with representatives of the DFID, the government of Punjab, the Government of Sindh, and the Government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa launched the 6th Doing Business Reforms Action Plan and Investment Promotion Strategy.

The secretary BOI expressed the hope, the action plans formulated in these documents would be successfully implemented and contribute in making our businesses more competitive as well as increasing investment in Pakistan.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020