PHL eyes 65th in World Bank ranking (BusinessWorld)

FRESH REFORMS that simplified procedures to register a business and a follow-through to other measures aimed at attracting more investments should help make a case for the country to climb to 65th place in the World Bank’s competitiveness list this year, the co-chair of the National Competitiveness Council (NCC) said yesterday.

“Today, we’re 95. I want to be above 65 or better. That’s my goal,” NCC co-chair for the private sector Guillermo M. Luz yesterday said at the sidelines of the 3rd Annual Ease of Doing Business Summit in Pasay City.

“All the steps we’ve outlined, we’ve done our rough calculations. If everything succeeds, we should jump roughly from 95 into 65 and 70,” Mr. Luz said.

The Ease of Doing Business 2015 report, which the World Bank Group released in October last year, put the Philippines in 95th spot among 189 economies -- a 13-notch improvement from 108th the year prior based on an old methodology but down nine rungs from a recalculated 86th place based on new indicators.

Last year’s report measured economies based on 11 areas of business regulation: starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, paying taxes, trading across borders, getting credit, protecting minority investors, enforcing contracts, resolving insolvency and labor market regulation.

Mr. Luz noted “starting a business” proved to be most problematic for the country last year as, going by that measure, the Philippines placed 161st among 189 economies.

“It should be a significant jump,” Mr. Luz said.

Panelists at yesterday’s summit cited the progress the country has made in its bid to further improve its ranking in the World Bank’s annual list.

Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Director Ferdinand B. Sales said at a panel discussion starting a business can now be completed in eight days from the previous 34 days as the government cut 16 steps to just six.

The corporate regulator this year implemented an “integrated business registration system” which lumped the application for social security, health insurance, housing membership and tax registration into a single process.

In its first 15 days of implementation last month, the SEC processed over 97% of applications for registration it received from April 15 to 30.

Herbert Constantine M. Bautista, mayor of Quezon City -- the local government unit measured in the World Bank report -- said the city made headway in cutting the cost of doing business.

Quezon City, he said, set up an online registration system which reduced the process to two steps from six steps.

“This system allows new business owners to register 24/7,” Mr. Bautista said.

“We’ve also set up one-stop shops for the processing of building permits for malls and excavation permits for utilities,” he said.

Manila Electric Co. Senior Assistant Vice President and Head of Utility Economics Lawrence S. Fernandez said the power distributor also noted getting electricity would now just take three steps in 38 days from four steps and 42 days. Costs also more than halved to P251,770 from P519,640.

Lawyer Ronald A. Ortile, Deputy Administrator for Operations at the Land Registration Authority, said the agency developed an electronic system for its Certificate Authorizing Registration which would reduce the processing of the document to five to 10 days, from 14 days.

The CAR is a document which certifies that taxes from the transfer of properties have been fully paid.

Mr. Ortile said LRA is also converting manually-issued titles electronically.

“In the event the Register of Deeds gets burned down, gets flooded, we only need to put up a new server and upload the database and it will be up and running again. We encourage all titleholders here to convert your titles to electronic titles,” Mr. Ortile said.

Progress has also been to make credit information available to financial institutions, said Jaime P. Garchitorena, president of Credit Information Corp.

“By December 2015, we will have at most five legitimate credit bureaus who will have the ability to score both individuals and corporations so that financial institutions and other lending institutions can use this as a quick reference point to match against their internal lending and risk policies so that decisions can be made quicker,” Mr. Garchitorena said.

“To get a credit report today may take as long as three to five days. The system, as we built it, promises to make available data within five seconds. That is a huge leap in terms of reducing the time to get credit,” he added.

SEC Director Justina F. Callangan said the corporate regulator is set to release by November this year a corporate governance blueprint to help better protect minority investors.

Ease of Doing Business in the Philippines
By: Mikhail Franz E. Flores, Senior Reporter