Ray of Hope : Ease of Doing Business Reforms in Uttarakhand
Usually, it is lack of positive news that comes out from our state of Uttarakhand. There has though been one notable exception – The Ease of Doing Business Reforms. Had written this piece recently on the reform progress. Thought would share with you.
Progress, they say, is the way of life. However in the real world it is often hampered by complicated procedures, long waiting periods and an overall lax attitude. If an economy is to grow and flourish then it must do away with unnecessary red tape and streamline its administrative procedures. Transparency and clarity should be the cornerstones of an economy that is all set to rise.
It is quite likely that you run into the term, ‘Ease of Doing Business’ at least a few times a week in newspaper columns, business magazines and on media channels. As the name aptly suggests it refers to how easily one can do business in a state or country. The World Bank publishes a yearly index with the same name and it studies how easy it is to do business in a country based on several parameters, with reference to ‘regulatory best practices’.
An International Perspective
According to the Word Bank’s report on ‘Ease of Doing Business (EoDB)’ 2016, India was awarded 130th rank out of a total of 189 countries. This was a marginal improvement from its 131st rank of the year before. On some parameters such as trading across borders, getting electricity and registering properties and enforcing contracts India has improved its rank. On the other hand, on factors such as starting a business, getting credit, protecting minority investors and dealing with construction permits there has been a slight decline in the ranking. The better a country’s ranking on the ‘Ease of Doing Business’ Index, the simpler and effective are its regulations for businesses, and strong protection of property rights.
The Tri Colour Flies High
The central government, and state governments in turn, have taken steps to ensure that the country offers businesses a conducive atmosphere in which they can flourish. Whether it is bids for Smart City or for the ‘Ease of Doing Business’ states participate competitively and usually with great energy and enthusiasm. The index takes into account 10 areas of business regulation, and some of these include dealing with permits, getting credit, property registration, contract enforcement and insolvency resolution.
The government has introduced initiatives to simplify regulation and procedure in these areas. Some of these initiatives include the introduction of Form 29 that can register a business in less than three working days. PAN and TAN can be acquired now in T+1 day with the use of digital signature. To make it easier for traders across borders the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) introduced the Indian Customs Single Window Project that allows both importers as well as exporters to lodge customs clearance documents at a single point with the Customs. The intent is to cut red tape to facilitate better business functioning.
Looking Across State Boundaries
Of the 32 states and union territories that were evaluated in the Ease of Doing Business 2016 ranking, no clear leader emerged. This was due to the fact that no state was able to accomplish at least 75% of the 98 point action plan devised by the central government. Uttarakhand which had received 23rd rank and a score of 13.36% in 2015 jumped to 9th position in 2016. Quite clearly once the government and administration make up their mind they can move mountains, in this case hurdles that had erstwhile made it difficult to do business in the state.
Uttarakhand’s Ease of Doing Business Reforms
The key EoDB Reforms in Uttarakhand include five focus areas. To offer access to information and enable transparency, the state government compiled a total of 329 investor related services spread across 55 departments and a single government portal. It also introduced a helpline that would deal with investor queries.
The Uttarakhand Directorate of Industries has created the Single Window Clearance System (SWCS) with a two tier system. Responses to applications submitted to the directorate will be responded to within a fortnight, and approved or rejected. If a response is not received a ‘deemed approval’ is granted automatically. For all applications, clearances and approvals a Common Application Form has been introduced on the Single Window Uttarakhand portal. In addition, an online grievance redressal system has been set up to deal with any and all investor issues.
For investors who are looking for land, the state government has simplified the process greatly. The State Infrastructure and Industrial Development Corporation of Uttarakhand Limited (SIIDCUL) now offers a list of land bank, along with details such as area, distances and infrastructure along with GIS data. This data is integrated with Google maps for practical application. The government follows a ‘first come first serve’ policy when it comes to land allotment. It is imperative that the procedure must be completed up to 30 days from the date of application. The e-stamp facility of the SIIDCUL is available at all sub registrar offices to improve the whole process of land allotment.
To enable construction contracts and facilitate the process of approval the State Industrial Development Authority (SIDA) has initiated an online registration for Building Permit Approval. The state government has formulated comprehensive formal building bye laws that do away with any ambiguity or doubt. The Automatic Building Plan Approval Management System has been established so as to ensure that applications and plans are processed efficiently and ensure effective monitoring. These reforms have greatly reduced the need for building permissions and the long waiting period that they earlier involved.
Uttarakhand Environment Protection and Pollution Control Board has put together a complete list of documents and procedures involved in filing an application. The Consolidated Consent and Authorization form (CCA Application) for water, air consent and hazardous waste authorization is available online. Furthermore, the fee can be calculated on the online fee calculator. The government has affixed a time period within which an application must be approved or rejected.
The Way Ahead
Uttarakhand’s improved performance and ranking for ‘Ease of Doing Business’ is a clear indicator that the state wants to walk its own path of economic growth and prosperity. And it is willing to take the steps to accomplish this. The state government has introduced effective reforms to minimize steps and procedures that hurt the business growth. However, the success of these reforms will lie in how well the plans are executed. Such reforms are meant for the long term and should not be adversely affected by change in political power at the state capital.
While the reform results inspire hope, the real work has just begun. Administrative bodies have to be consistently proactive and understand that they play a pivotal role in the entire process of doing business efficiently in Uttarakhand.
There is great potential in the state that is still underutilized. As is well-known growth has been skewed and is largely concentrated in the plain areas. Other opportunities need to be identified and resources allocated accordingly. As Uttarakhand marches ahead with its process of reforms, other states can borrow a leaf from its nascent narrative of progress, for only when we all move together as a nation will India rise to its true glory.