South Asian Economies Focus on Easing Cross-Border Trade to Improve Business Climate: Doing Business Report

October 25, 2016

WASHINGTON, October 25, 2016 – Economies in the South Asia region continued to implement business reforms in   a number of areas, including cross-border trade, finds the World Bank Group’s Doing Business 2017: Equal Opportunity for All report.

Released today, the report records a total of 11 reforms by five of the region’s eight economies in the past year with Pakistan being one of the global top 10 improvers. Reforms in Pakistan were implemented in multiple areas including Getting Credit, Registering Property and Trading Across Borders. For example, Lahore improved the quality of land administration by digitizing ownership and land records.

India and Sri Lanka implemented four and two reforms, respectively. Among other things, India made paying taxes easier by introducing an electronic system for paying employee state insurance contributions. Now, a medium-sized company in India only has to make 25 tax payments, compared with 33 payments earlier. Additionally, India made enforcing contracts easier by creating dedicated divisions to resolve commercial cases.

“In the past year, governments in South Asia have implemented or improved electronic systems to ease compliance with regulations,” said Rita Ramalho, Manager of the Doing Business project.  “Modernizing systems is an important way to improve the business climate for entrepreneurs.”

Doing Business shows steady removal of barriers to doing business, as more and more governments take up the challenge of reforming. For example, starting a business in the region now takes an average of 16 days, compared with 24 days five years ago.

Facilitating cross-border trade was a major reform focus in the past year, with half of the region’s economies implementing reforms in this area. Afghanistan, India, Nepal and Pakistan all introduced or upgraded electronic data interchange systems. For example, Afghanistan and Nepal made exporting and importing easier by implementing or improving ASYCUDA World, an electronic data interchange system that allows electronic processing of trade documents. India made exporting and importing easier by launching the ICEGATE portal and simplifying border and documentary procedures. Pakistan made exporting and importing easier by enhancing its electronic customs platform. These reforms have made the process of facilitating cross border trade easier- for example, the time it takes to comply with border processes for imports in Pakistan is 129 hours, compared to 141 hours in the previous year.

For the first time, the report includes a gender dimension in three sets of indicators: Starting a Business, Registering Property and Enforcing Contracts. The report finds that women entrepreneurs face additional legal barriers to entrepreneurship in Afghanistan and Pakistan over male entrepreneurs. For instance, married women in Afghanistan are required to obtain permission to leave the home prior to registering a company.

The Paying Taxes indicator set has been expanded to cover post-filing processes, such as tax audits and VAT refund. For example, the report finds that the time it takes to comply with a corporate income tax audit in Afghanistan is considerably high, taking 212 hours compared to the regional average of 48 hours.

The full report and accompanying datasets are available at

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