Ease of Doing Business index: Lanka aims at 70th position | Sunday Observer

Ease of Doing Business index: Lanka aims at 70th position

The country aims at notching the 70th position in the Ease of Doing Business (EODB) index by 2020 improving from last year’s ranking which moved up 11 notches in the country index of World Bank, a top official of the Ministry of Development Strategies and International Trade told a forum in Colombo last week.

Sri Lanka was ranked 100 among 190 economies behind India and Bhutan which were ranked 77 and 81 in the EODB index last year. The country’s rating averaged 100 from 2008 to 2018 reaching an all time low of 113 in 2004 and a record high of 83 in 2012.

Addressing a seminar on ‘Initiatives to Improve the Investment Climate in Sri Lanka’ at the Miloda Academy of Financial Studies, Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade, Malik Samarawickrama said, “While we could be proud of the achievement, we also need to realise that there is a long way to go in improving the doing business ranking which is critical for the country to attract foreign direct investments.”

“India made substantial progress last year and had done well in the doing business ranking. Similarly, other countries too had done well to improve their rankings. We need to continue the good work to improve our ranking,” the minister said, adding that the aim of the government was to attract FDIs and boost exports which is the only way to move up in the country’s income status and pay off debts.

“Developed countries hoping to invest in Sri Lanka will look at where the country ranks in the indices. Our task is to help the task forces to improve the rankings,” he said.

Starting a business, dealing with construction permits, obtaining electricity supply, registering property, getting credit, protecting minority investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts, resolving insolvency are some of the key parameters of the EODB.

Head of the Task Force for Starting Business of the EODB Index, Champika Gunarathne said with the launch of the Electronic Registration of Companies (EOR) system, the process and the time taken to register a company has been reduced from seven procedures and nine days to one day which is a noteworthy achievement to improve the EODB ranking.

New Zealand which is ranked top in the ease of doing business index, takes only one day to register a company.

Before the introduction of the ERO system in April last year, the registration of companies had to be done manually by obtaining a business certificate from the Registrar of Companies and then registering the company at the Inland Revenue Department and the Labour Department.

“The time taken for the process of registration at the Inland Revenue Department and the Labour Department will be reduced to two hours. Of the 8,600 companies registered, around 600 companies have been registered through the EOR system up to January 2019. We hope to integrate the EOR system with the Inland Revenue and the Labour Departments soon and this will speed up the process and ease the hassle of registering a company.

The Starting a Business Task Force looks at the number of procedures, days and minimum capital to start a business.

A senior official of the e-task force for Registering of Property said the time taken to register a property has been reduced to 39 days from 51, and added that the aim is to reduce it further to 20 days by next year. The number of steps needed to register a property has also been reduced from nine to three. “We hope to reduce the number of procedures and the days further in the coming years.”

“Sri Lanka needs to improve its position in land administration. The country received 5.5 points at its last rating. The single window counter launched by the Colombo Municipal Council has improved the process of transferring land ownership, from nine steps and 16 days. A one-day service for land registration will be launched this month,” he said.

The digitisation of services has enabled land parcels in the municipality to be visualised. A land tribunal with powers similar to the District Court will be set up to resolve land disputes. Search for titles could be done through the website and certificates on non vesting, street lines and ownership could be obtained within three days.

“We want to encourage people to use the online system for information and register properties without having to visit the Land Registry,” the official said.