EDITORIAL - Still, red tape

The Philippine Star
EDITORIAL -  Still, red tape

The country has a law against red tape, which was later enhanced by another law to promote ease of doing business. There is an Anti-Red Tape Authority. And yet something always gets lost in the implementation of even the most well-intentioned laws in this country.

Business groups and foreign missions continue to complain about the difficulty of transacting with the government. This week German Ambassador Andreas Michael Pfaffernoschke, in a talk with journalists, said red tape is “definitely a key concern” not just of investors from his country, but also of the entire business community.

“There are many permits you need in the Philippines. There is sometimes corruption involved, and there are different layers of government units that are involved in getting permits,” the envoy said. “When it comes to red tape… it’s the number of permits you need, it’s the time it takes to get a permit… I think it’s not unique to German businesses. You will hear this from the whole business community in the Philippines.”

Government officials with a penchant for overseas travel at taxpayers’ expense, ostensibly to conduct investment “roadshows,” should consider those observations from the ambassador of Europe’s biggest economy. Similar observations continue to be raised by Philippine business groups, from micro, small and medium enterprises to big business.

They complain not only of too many and often overlapping steps and permits required, from national agencies all the way down to the barangay. They point to inconsistent and confusing rules and requirements between national and local government units, and from one LGU to the next.

Rodrigo Duterte during his presidency kept telling the bureaucracy to follow deadlines set by law for completing transactions with the government. Not even the threat of lethal violence, however, could change the system wherein as many government officials and personnel as possible must have a say in the release of a government document or approval of a deal, from national agency employees all the way down to barangay council members, with fees collected at every step.

Businessmen have sighed that a single transaction can involve multiple steps in different offices and levels of government. Securing all the required permits to open a business or implement a privately funded infrastructure project can drag on for years, especially if it involves right of way and environmental clearances.

Red tape is also among the reasons cited by business groups for favoring other countries in the region for their investments. If the Marcos administration wants to draw those investors, the campaign against red tape needs more resolute action.

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