eGov: the ultimate in ease of doing business
The World Bank-IFC has released its 14th edition of the annual Ease of Doing Business Report, which compares business regulations and processes in 190 economies around the world and measures 10 basic steps involved in a typical life cycle of a business enterprise. Data are collected every first half of the year with a cutoff date of May 31.
In the report, the Philippines moved up four positions to No. 99 this year from No. 103 last year. In Asean, five countries—the Philippines, Indonesia, Brunei, Vietnam and Thailand—moved up, and five others—Lao PDR, Malaysia, Cambodia, Myanmar and Singapore—slipped, though in Singapore’s case, it dropped only from No. 1 to No. 2. We live in one of the most competitive regions in the world.
Of the 10 indicators measured in the report, the Philippines improved in areas such as protecting minority investors (up 18 from No. 155 to No. 137), dealing with construction permits (up 14 from No. 99 to No. 85), paying taxes and social services (up 11 from No. 126 to No. 115), and enforcing contracts in court (up 4 from No. 140 to No. 136). While not significantly large improvements, these are nonetheless movements in the right direction.
On the other hand, the Philippines dropped in four indicators: getting credit (from No. 109 to No. 118), starting a business (from No. 165 to No. 171), getting electricity (from No. 19 to No. 22), and resolving insolvency (from No. 53 to No. 56).
In order to make a huge improvement in these rankings, we will need to do three things in the coming months: continue to streamline and simplify processes (something that has been ongoing for some years, hence the 49 country jump in six years); legislate amendments to some laws and create new laws to support ease of doing business (currently pending in Congress); and take more government procedures online.
The typical process for applying for a permit or license is manual. One manually fills out forms, often entering the same data on different forms. These forms are usually submitted over the counter at some office (in many cases, multiple offices in different locations), and then manually processed. But before then, one is usually asked to submit supporting documents to verify or validate one’s application—more paper! The release of the license or permit is also done over the counter.
The whole process is tedious, takes too much time, and entails too much cost. Though it has never been measured, it probably contributes to the traffic as people need to move from office to office to obtain licenses and permits or make payments to government offices.
The obvious solution is to apply technology and take more of these services online. Our national goal should be to enable people to file anything from anywhere, anytime. It should also enable us to pay for these licenses and permits by whatever means is available—online payment, credit cards, mobile money. And we should be able to receive our licenses and permits online so we do not have to go to an office to pick these up. This should work like purchasing an airline ticket through the internet today.
Fortunately, such a system is being contemplated today by the newly formed Department of Information Communications Technology working with the Departments of Trade and Industry, Finance, and Interior and Local Government, and other agencies. It will take some time to fully roll out such a system, but much has been done to create the technology platform that will make all these applications possible.
The key is that people should continuously clamor for these programs and contribute ideas to make them more user-friendly and practical. It is only by moving into “eGov” that we will see ease of doing business a reality.
Guillermo M. Luz (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the private-sector cochair of the National Competitiveness Council.
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