mid-day editorial: What do you mean, ease of doing business?
Our ratings have risen 30 points on the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business rankings and the chest-thumping has started. That's because in the current climate of doubt, the government is forced to clutch at straws.
The rankings are based on time taken for starting a business, getting building sanctions, getting a power connection, registering purchase of property, getting credit sanctioned, protection of investors, taxation, foreign trade, enforcement of contracts, among other things.
Do the rankings indicate that we have suddenly achieved a high level of competence? Not in Maharashtra at least. Swedish furniture giant, IKEA, finally got environmental approval in August for a mega store in Navi Mumbai. That's ten whole months after applying for it. Ease of doing business? Really?
Then there's pilot Amol Yadav, whose only wish was to fly the aircraft he had built on the rooftop of his house. But, the issue has become so tangled in red tape that after waiting six years for approvals, a furious Yadav is planning to head to the US with the project. What's even more interesting is that permissions did not come despite the involvement of the Prime Minister's Office.
Red-tapism has been the Indian citizens' bête noir for longer than we can remember. The malaise thrives because greasing palms is as much a national pastime as it is a necessity. We've all come up against red-tape at some point in our lives, only to find that a few Gandhi prints can miraculously make that tape disappear.
That's possibly the only way it becomes easy to do business. But till such time the common man still needs to pay a middleman to get a job done, to him the ease of doing business ranking means absolutely nothing.