Pilot projects lead to spate of business reforms

A raft of reforms to improve the business climate, including steps to eliminate regional protectionism and streamline business registration, will be rolled out nationwide after being piloted in six cities last year, according to a notice released by the central government.

The General Office of the State Council, China’s Cabinet, announced the decision on Oct 31, saying that 50 measures — trialed last year in Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing, Hangzhou in Zhejiang province and Guangzhou and Shenzhen, both in Guangdong province — yielded tangible results in terms of reducing the burden on businesses and solving difficult issues.

Key measures include making it easier for businesses to set up bank accounts and allowing them to access online services to change registration information.

Authorities will phase out policies that create hidden barriers for nonlocal businesses in the process of public bidding and government procurement in an effort to prevent protectionism.

Additionally, businesses will have access to one-stop online services to register social security information for their employees.

To facilitate the higher level development of cross-border commerce, the government will refine inquiry services for imported and exported goods, enhance information sharing between the railway sector and customs, and enable exporters and importers to declare cargo in advance to enable quicker customs clearance.

To level the playing field, the government will cancel any policies that create differential treatment for businesses in obtaining qualifications or invitations to bidding, government procurement and rights protection. It also pledged to phase out policies that limit competition.

In order to spur investment in the real estate sector, authorities will streamline administration and cut red tape for developers in terms of securing approval for land use and acceptance inspection.

Measures to bolster government oversight in key sectors, including agricultural produce, food and drugs, environmental protection and healthcare, will also be promoted nationwide.

According to the notice, authorities are required to ensure that all the measures are in place by the end of the year.

Ma Liang, a professor of public management at the Renmin University of China in Beijing, said the measures will be instrumental in fostering a better business environment and will help reduce corporate burdens, enhance the efficiency of government oversight and promote entrepreneurship and innovation.

“They will also help develop a unified national market and improve the national business climate across the board,” he said. “The business climate is as important as air and water to the survival of enterprises. A better climate will help businesses through economic slowdowns and the fallout from the epidemic, and bolster confidence in the future.”

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