ISLAMABAD: Tax payment procedures for businesses are being simplified and the number of taxes have been reduced to 16 from 47.

Chairman Board of Investment (BoI) Haroon Sharif said this while addressing a joint press conference with Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce, Textile, Industry and Production Abdul Razak Dawood here on Wednesday.

With an aim to get Pakistan included among top 50 countries on the global ranking of ease of doing business within the next five years, the government has planned measures to ensure simpler and friendlier regulations for business.

Automation of construction permits in Karachi and Lahore and property registration in Karachi were part of the reforms being introduced within the next three months.

Haroon said businessmen could now pay taxes online and laws would also be framed to ensure their easy access to banking credit. He said the Pakistan embassies abroad had also been directed to establish special visa desks to facilitate the investors.

Abdul Razak Dawood said the government was working hard to improve the ease of doing business for creating a niche for the country among the top 50 economies during the next five years.

“Pakistan currently is ranked at 136 in the ease of doing business; the government aims to bring it down to less than 100 in two years and among top 50 countries in the next five years,” Razak said.

He said the ease of doing business was a major indicator for attracting foreign direct investment and for revival of industry. “When the current government assumed the office, Pakistan was ranked at 147 in ease of doing business and due to several short-term measures, it improved to the current 136th number,” he said.

The adviser said besides ease of doing business in the country, the government was also working on simplifying the taxation system and visa regime, and was taking steps to link all investment hubs of the country with the one-window facility.

Haroon Sharif said South Asia was among the fastest growing economies of the world, which was attracting investment. He said enhancing the foreign investment was the government’s top priority.

He said the BoI in close coordination with the provincial governments was working to simplify the taxation system, as about 47 types of manual payments were involved to start any business.

He said the one-window facility was started by taking the Federal Board of Revenue, Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan and provincial governments on board.

He said the government had also introduced one-window facility for company registration and the Punjab government was linked with the facility. He said the process for linking Sindh had been started while all other provinces would be linked by March this year.

In order to facilitate investment, the scope of one-window facility was extended to property registration and a web portal was launched, he said, adding that the procedures for acquiring other utilities, including electricity, water and gas, were also available on their websites.

Haroon said the government was also working on 10 other indicators including cross board trade with China, Afghanistan and India for streamlining matters related to trade and absorbing the increasing trade activities in ports.

He said for addressing the credit issues of exports, the government had evolved a mechanism to pay back returns. He said one third of refunds would be paid in cash whereas for the remaining amount, the government would launch promissory bonds to pay their refund claims.

Haroon said in order to attract foreign investment, dedicated business units would be established in each province to facilitate businessmen, besides making an easy access to credit for fulfilling the financing requirements.

He said the visa regime would also be improved for businessmen and visas would be issued within 24 hours. For further easing the visa process, an online visa facility with four countries has already been started which would be extended to 60 other countries in next phase, he added.

He said restricted movements had also been abolished. The BoI head said the foreign investors’ perception about Pakistan had changed after Prime Minister Imran Khan’s foreign visits and now investors from Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, China and the UAE had shown keen interest for investing in different sectors of economy.