ARTA aims for record Doing Business score

THE ANTI-RED TAPE Authority (ARTA) is aiming to reach the Philippines’ highest score yet in the next global Doing Business report, its top official said.

The World Bank’s annual Doing Business report assesses countries’ competitiveness by measuring regulations that enhance and constrain business activity. Countries with fewer regulations will have a higher ranking on the Doing Business index, which will then boost their attractiveness to foreign investors.

The Philippines rose to 95th place from 124th place among 190 economies in the latest report released in 2019 after improving its overall score to 62.8 points from 60.9 points, although it was seventh among 10 Southeast Asian Nations.

“We are hoping that the Philippines will have its highest ever EODB (Ease of Doing Business) score in the history since the survey started,” ARTA Director-General Jeremiah B. Belgica said in a mobile message on Saturday.

Although starting a business became easier after the country abolished the minimum capital requirement for domestic companies and made dealing with construction permits easier, the report showed that the country still needed to improve enforcing contracts, trading across borders, and registering property.

“We continue to work on and improve the ‘starting a business’ sector,” Mr. Belgica said. The rollout of a central business portal, he said, would aid in these efforts.

In a recent joint memorandum circular issued by ARTA and other government agencies, all local government units have to set up the electronic business one-stop shop or automate their business processing and licensing systems by June 17.

Local governments that have fully put up an online business registration service must cut the number of steps to one. Business registration must be processed within three business days, while the number of signatories on permits must be reduced to three people.

The Philippines continues to be plagued with red tape issues during the pandemic. ARTA recently issued a show-cause order to the Food and Drug Authority for alleged delays in processing 600 drug applications.

The World Bank faced recent criticism over reported irregularities regarding data changes in the 2018 and 2020 versions of its flagship report. It paused the release of the latest edition and noted corrections would be incorporated in the upcoming report.

ARTA also called for a review of the methodology of the report, raising concerns about the data collection method. The Doing Business survey team, Mr. Belgica said, should select respondents that are familiar with the processes or regulations being assessed.

The World Bank report measures competitiveness of economies in doing business using several indicators: starting a business, employing workers, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, protecting minority investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts and resolving insolvency.

In 2019, the Philippines created the ARTA, one of the offshoots of an Ease of Doing Business Act that President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed in the year prior. — Jenina P. Ibañez