By Ayushi Gupta
The Narendra Modi-led government has set an ambitious target for itself. It aims to place India amongst the top 50 countries on the ‘Ease of Doing Business’ index by 2020. Currently, the country ranks 130 on the index. Given the knowledge asymmetries, this index has become a yardstick for judging a country’s safety and profitability from the viewpoint of capital investors.
So far, India has been a poor performer in areas like the construction of permits, payment of taxes, enforcement of contracts and registration of property. To promote India as an investment hot spot, the government has introduced certain policies. However, the country needs more innovative solutions that can yield results in a shorter span of time. While the index places India at a dismal spot, there happens to be a way out. One way to improve its ranking is to adopt the Public Service Halls model.
The Public Service Halls model and the story of Georgia
Georgia has leapt ahead from a lowly position of 112 on the index in 2005 to 16 in 2012. Much of this is owed to many reforms undertaken by its young leaders post the Rose Revolution in 2003. However, one huge reason for this has been the presence of Public Service Halls (PSHs).
These halls have effectively simplified procedures and reduced time and effort while improving the quality of life of Georgia’s citizens. For instance, before the introduction of PSHs, the registration of property involved eight procedures. It took an average of 39 days and cost about 2.5% of the property’s value. However, now it takes just one procedure, two days and the cost has come down to 0.1%.
PSHs were started in 2004 as stop-shops that delivered key services. These services included access to public records, issuing of passports and IDs, business registration and the creation of birth or marriage certificates. Currently, in Georgia, each PSH is divided into three different areas to minimise waiting time. In addition to this, user feedback booths are placed at various places and remain well equipped to improve the overall experience of the people.
All fees charged are clear and in writing—as is the time frame for issuing various documents. Information technology (IT) has played a critical role in tracking the flow of documents. The database includes satellite images, digital maps and is linked to other government agencies, including the Ministry of Finance and the Civil Registry.
How can India benefit?
Envisaging a sustainable futuristic development of urban centres, the government launched the ‘Smart Cities’ mission. With exploding population, it aims for an adequate infrastructure and a citizen- friendly governance through the application of ‘smart’ solutions. However, the inability of municipal governments to lead and the gigantism of public entities makes everything slow and inefficient.
This calls for a holistic and technology-based approach to successfully match the vision of the government and it is here that the PSHs model enters. The model stands for transparency, efficiency, simplified procedures, a customer friendly environment and an openness in governance. It will help improve services, reduce delays, and make bureaucratic processes as painless as possible.
Currently, citizens who wish to obtain official documents or register a property or business, have to go to different agencies to obtain appropriate services. The establishment of a modern infrastructure like PSHs will lead to subsequent effective coordination between the Centre and the states. This shall reduce confusion and delays in procedures. With an immense coordination at the back end, services will be provided without many glitches.
PSHs are also a ‘smart’ solution to problems that arise out of inefficiency in the bureaucracy. They can reduce unpleasant experiences with government officials and reduce the time investment of citizens. Implementing the PSHs model shall also bring uniformity in the local business regulations and their enforcement with immense coordination among various departments. Hence, it will be wise for India to learn from its peers and adopt the model as soon as it can.
Featured image credits: Flickr
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