Philippines “EASE OF DOING BUSINESS” Leapfrog from 138 – to top 108; Amazing 30 notches up in 1 year

The Philippines is among the 10 best economies that carved inroads in making it easier to do business in the past year, improving its ranking by 30 places in the World Bank Group's "Doing Business" report released Tuesday.  

In "Doing Business 2014: Understanding Regulations for Small and Medium-Size Enterprises," the Washington-based multilateral lender said the Philippines was among nations that has implemented at least three reforms in doing business the multilateral lender monitors.

The Philippines made it easier for businessmen to secure construction permits, obtain credit and pay taxes, the report noted.  

In the latest report, the Philippines now ranks 108th out of 189 nations, up 30 notches from the 138 last year.

"This is the most that the Philippines has moved since the report started," said Nataliya Mylenko, World Bank senior financial sector specialist, said at a briefing in Taguig City.   

The other nine nations are Ukraine, Rwanda, Russia, Kosovo, Djibouti, Ivory Coast, Burundi, Macedonia and Guatemala.

"The introduction of a fully operational online filing and payment system made tax compliance easier for companies," World Bank said about the Philippines in a statement tied to the report.

It also noted the "simplified" process in securing occupancy clearances which helped ease the process of obtaining construction permits, as well as new rules that guarantee access to their data in the Philippine credit bureau.

Playing catch up

The Philippines, however, still has a long way to go in closing the gap with other countries in terms of doing business.

Singapore continued to be the most business-friendly economy in the world, followed by Hong Kong, New Zealand, US and Denmark.

The bottom five were Chad, Central African Republic, Libya, South Sudan and Congo.

"We're recognizing that the Philippines has made improvements, but there is more that the country can do," Mikiko Imai Ollison, co-private sector development specialist at World Bank, told Southeast Asian journalists in a webcast from Washington.

However, Ollison noted that based on World Bank findings around 35 days on the average are needed to start a business in the Philippines, compared with "less than 20 days" for "majority of the countries" included in the report.

Despite improvement in paying taxes, World Bank co-private sector development specialist Charlotte Nan Jiang said on the webcast this remains a drag on the Philippines' business environment. 

At the Taguig City briefing, Mylenko said the Philippines must computerize online registration for businesses and land titling and improve the legal framework on collaterals. 

The pace of business registration and renewing business permits in the Philippines remains a laggard in Southeast Asia, Motoo Konishi, World Bank Philippines country director, noted at the same briefing.

Reforms underway

More reforms are needed, Trade and Industry Undersecretary Nora Terrado said in an interview at the sidelines of the briefing.

"We have cut down to 16 steps... But is this the best we can achieve? No," Terrado said, referring to the number of steps needed to start a business.

The government and private sector are working to enhance inter-agency collaboration in trimming business processes, she said. "We will regroup, will re-plan and strengthen our strategy, so we'll leapfrog in our ranking."

Guillermo Luz, private-sector representative at the National Competitiveness Council, said: "Consistency is also important. We need to make improvements year-on-year... on-year, that's the only way we can move up," adding that all nations are constantly upgrading their processes.

 

"Hopefully, by this time next year we're already in the double-digit neighborhood," Luz said of the NCC goal the Philippine ranking in 2014.

American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines Inc. committee chairman John Forbes is confident when it comes to upcoming reforms in improving the business environment. 

"The key takeaway is you have to have strong leadership to move up. The challenge now is you are in the neighborhood of better economies, but I'm confident you can go up," he said.

The World Bank report noted the pace of business regulatory reform continues to accelerate worldwide following the 2008 financial crisis.

"A better business climate that enables entrepreneurs to build their businesses and reinvest in their communities is key to local and global economic growth," World Bank Group [p]resident Jim Yong Kim was quoted as saying in the statement. — KG/VS

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