‘Ease of doing business’ refers to the regulatory environment in a country to set up and operate a business.  Every year, the World Bank compares the business environment in 190 countries in its Ease of Doing Business Report.  In its report released yesterday, India’s rank improved to 100 out of 190 countries in 2017, from its rank of 130 in the previous year.[1],[2]  In this context, we explain the parameters on which each country is ranked, what has led to India’s improvement in rankings, and some recommendations made by committees to further improve the business environment in the country.

What parameters is a country ranked on?

Table 1 (2)The ease of doing business rankings are based on a country’s performance on 10 parameters such as enforcing contracts and starting a business.  In India, these rankings are based on the business environment in Mumbai and Delhi.  A lower rank indicates better performance on that parameter, whereas a higher rank indicates worse performance on the indicator.  India’s ranking improved in six out of the 10 parameters over the previous year, while it remained the same or fell in the remaining four (see Table 1).

Note that these parameters are regulated by different agencies across the three tiers of government (i.e. central, state and municipal).  For example, for starting a business, registration and other clearances are granted by central ministries such as Finance and Corporate Affairs.  Electricity and water connections for a business are granted by the state electricity and water boards.  The municipal corporations grant building permits and various other no objection certificates to businesses.

What has led to an improvement in India’s ease of doing business rankings?

According to the 2017 report, India introduced changes in some of these parameters, which helped in improving its ranking.1  Some of these changes include:

  • Starting a business: Starting a business involves obtaining clearances, and conforming to various regulations under laws such as Companies Act, 2013.  The report noted that India merged the application procedure for getting a Permanent Account Number (PAN) and the Tax Account Number (TAN) for new businesses.  It also improved the online application system for getting a PAN and a TAN.
  • Getting credit and resolving insolvency: The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code passed in 2016 provides for a 180-day time-bound process to resolve insolvency.[3]  It also provides for the continuation of a debtor’s business during these proceedings.  The Code allows secured creditors to opt out of resolution proceedings, and specifies that a debtor will be immune against creditor claims during the 180-day insolvency resolution process.  Prior to the passage of the Code, it took 4.3 years in India to liquidate a business (as of 2015).
  • Paying taxes: The report notes that India made paying taxes easier by requiring that payments to the Employees Provident Fund are made electronically.[4]  Further, it introduced measures to ease compliance with corporate income tax.1,[5]
  • Trading across borders: Import border compliance at the Jawaharlal Nehru Port, Mumbai was reduced.  Export and Import costs were also reduced through increasing use of electronic and mobile platforms, among others.
  • Enforcing contracts: The introduction of the National Judicial Data Grid has made it possible to generate case management reports on local courts.[6]

What are some of the other recommendations to improve the business environment in India?

Over the last few years various committees, such as an Expert Committee constituted by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion and the Standing Committee of Commerce, have studied the the regulatory requirements for starting a business in India and the made recommendations on the ease of doing business.[7],[8],[9]  Some of the issues and recommendations made by these committees are discussed below.

Starting a business:  The Standing Committee observed that regulations and procedures for starting a business are time-consuming.8  The Committee observed that as a consequence, a large number of start-ups are moving out of India and setting base in countries like Singapore where such procedures are easier.  It emphasised on the need to streamline regulations to give businesses in India a boost.  Note that the government announced the ‘Start-up India Action Plan in January 2016.[10]  The 19-point plan identified steps to simplify the process for registering and operating start-ups. It also proposed to grant tax exemptions to these businesses.

The Committee had suggested that the procedures and time period for registration of companies should be reduced.  In addition, a unique business ID should be created to integrate all information related to a debtor.  This ID should be used as sole reference for the business.

Acquiring land, registering property:  Under the current legal framework there are delays in acquiring land and getting necessary permissions to use it.  These delays are on account of multiple reasons including the availability of suitable land and disputes related to land titles.  It has been noted that land titles in India are unclear due to various reasons including legacy of the zamindari system, gaps in the legal framework and poor administration of land records.[11]

The Standing Committee observed that the process of updating and digitising land records has been going on for three decades.  It recommended that this process should be completed at the earliest.  The digitised records would assist in removing ambiguity in land titles and help in its smooth transfer.  It also suggested that land ownership may be ascertained by integrating space technology and identification documents such as Aadhaar.  Note that as of September 2017, land records had been linked with Aadhaar in 4% of the villages across the country.[11]

Several states have taken steps to improve regulations related to land and transfer of property.8 These steps include integration of land records and land registration by Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat, and the passage of a law to certify land titles in urban areas by Rajasthan.  The Committee also recommended creating a single window for registration of property, to reduce delays.8

Construction permits:  In India, obtaining construction permits involves multiple procedures and is time consuming.  The Standing Committee had observed that it took 33 procedures (such as getting no objection certificates from individual departments) over 192 days to obtain a construction permit in India.8  On the other hand, obtaining a similar permit in Singapore involved 10 procedures and took 26 days.

Taxation:  The Standing Committee had noted that the tax administration in India was complex, and arbitration proceedings were time-consuming.  It observed that the controversies on the Minimum Alternate Tax on capital gains and the tax disputes with companies like Vodafone and Shell had harmed India’s image on taxation matters.  Such policy uncertainty and tax disputes have made foreign companies hesitant to do business in India.8

The Committee observed that for ‘Make in India’ to succeed, there is a need for a fair, judicious and stable tax administration in the country.  Further, it suggested that to reduce harassment of tax payers, an electronic tax administration system should be created.8  Such a system would reduce human interface during dispute resolution.  Note that the Goods and Services Tax (GST) was introduced across the country from July 1, 2017.  The GST framework allows for electronic filling of tax returns, among other measures.[12]

Enforcing contracts:  Enforcing contracts requires the involvement of the judicial system.  The time taken to enforce contracts in India is long.  For instance, the Standing Committee noted that it took close to four years in India for enforcing contracts.  On the other hand, it took less than six months for contract enforcement in Singapore.  This may be due to various reasons including complex litigation procedures, confusion related to jurisdiction of courts and high existing pendency of cases.8

The Standing Committee recommended that an alternative dispute resolution mechanism and fast track courts should be set up to expedite disposal of contract enforcement cases.  It suggested that efforts should be made to limit adjournments to exceptional circumstances only.  It also recommended that certified practitioners should be created, to assist dispute resolution.8

[1] ‘Doing Business 2018’, World Bank, http://www.doingbusiness.org/~/media/WBG/DoingBusiness/Documents/Annual-Reports/English/DB2018-Full-Report.pdf.

[2] ‘Doing Business 2017’, World Bank, http://www.doingbusiness.org/~/media/WBG/DoingBusiness/Documents/Annual-Reports/English/DB17-Full-Report.pdf.

[3] Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016, http://www.prsindia.org/billtrack/the-insolvency-and-bankruptcy-bill-2015-4100/.

[4] G.S.R. 436 (E), G.S.R. 437 (E) and G.S.R. 438 (E), Gazette of India, Ministry of Labour and Employment, May 4, 2017, http://labour.gov.in/sites/default/files/Notifications%20for%20amendment%20under%20EPF%2C%20EPS%20and%20EDLI%20Schemes%20for%20e-Payment_0.pdf.

[5] Finance Bill, 2017, http://www.prsindia.org/billtrack/the-finance-bill-2017-4681/; Memorandum explaining the provisions of the Finance Bill, 2017, http://unionbudget.nic.in/ub2017-18/memo/memo.pdf.

[6] National Judicial Data Grid, http://njdg.ecourts.gov.in/njdg_public/index.php.

[7] Report of the Expert Committee on Prior Permissions and Regulatory Mechanism, Department of Industrial Policy Promotion, February 27, 2016.

[8] ‘Ease of Doing Business’, 122nd Report of the Department Related Standing Committee on Commerce, December 21, 2015,

[9] Ease of Doing Business: An Enterprise of Survey of Indian States, NITI Aayog, August 28, 2017, http://niti.gov.in/writereaddata/files/document_publication/EoDB_Single.pdf.

[10] Start Up India Action Plan, January 2016, http://www.startupindia.gov.in/pdffile.php?title=Startup%20India%20Action%20Plan&type=Action&q=Action%20Plan.pdf&content_type=Action&submenupoint=action.

[11] Land Records and Titles in India, September 2017, http://www.prsindia.org/parliamenttrack/analytical-reports/land-records-and-titles-in-india-4941/.

[12] The Central Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017, http://www.prsindia.org/billtrack/the-central-goods-and-services-tax-bill-2017-4697/.

Early this week, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India tabled a report on the finances of Uttar Pradesh for the financial year 2020-21.  A few days prior to that, on May 26, the budget for Uttar Pradesh for 2022-23 was presented, along with which the final audited expenditure and receipt figures for the year 2020-21 were released.  The year 2020-21 presented a two-fold challenge for states – loss in revenue due to impact of COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, and the need for increased expenditure to support affected persons and economic recovery.  CAG noted that Uttar Pradesh’s GSDP grew by 1.05% in 2020-21 as compared to a growth of 6.5% in 2019-20.  The state reported a revenue deficit of Rs 2,367 crore in 2020-21 after reporting revenue surplus for 14 successive years since 2006-07.  Revenue deficit is the excess of revenue expenditure over revenue receipts.  This blog looks at the key trends in the finances of Uttar Pradesh in 2020-21 and certain observations by CAG on fiscal management by the state.

Spending and Deficits in 2020-21

Underspending:  In 2020-21, total spending by the state was 26% less than the budget estimate presented in February 2020.  In sectors such as water supply and sanitation, the actual expenditure was 60% less than the amount budgeted, while in agriculture and allied activities only 53% of the budgeted amount was spent.  CAG observed that in 251 schemes across 57 departments, the state government did not incur any expenditure in 2020-21.  These schemes had a budget provision of at least one crore rupees, and had cumulative allocation of Rs 50,617 crore.  These included schemes such as Pipe Drinking Water Scheme in Bundelkhand/Vindhya and apportionment of pension liabilities.  Moreover, the overall savings due to non-utilisation of funds in 2020-21 was 27.28% of total budget provisions.  CAG observed that the budgetary provisions increased between 2016 and 2021.  However, the utilisation of budget provisions reduced between 2018-19 and 2020-21.

Pattern of spending: CAG observed that in case of 12 departments, more than 50% of the expenditure was incurred in March 2021, the last month of the financial year.  In the civil aviation department, 89% of the total expenditure was incurred in March while this figure was 62% for the social welfare department (welfare of handicapped and backward classes).  CAG noted that maintaining a steady pace of expenditure is a sound practice under public financial management.  However, the Uttar Pradesh Budget Manual has no specific instructions for preventing such bunching of expenditure.  The CAG recommended that the state government can consider issuing guidelines to control the rush of expenditure towards the closing months of the financial year.

Management of deficit and debt: As a measure to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, an Ordinance was promulgated in June 2020 to raise the fiscal deficit limit from 3% of GSDP to 5% of GSDP for the year 2020-21.   Fiscal deficit represents the gap between expenditure and receipts in a year, and this gap is filled with borrowings.   The Uttar Pradesh Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act, 2004 (FRBM Act) passed by Uttar Pradesh Assembly specifies the upper limit for debt and deficits.  The Ordinance thus permitted the state government to borrow more to sustain its budget expenditure.  The fiscal deficit of the state in 2020-21 was 3.20% of GSDP, well below the revised limit. At the same time, the state’s outstanding debt to GSDP in 2020-21 was 32.77% of GSDP, above the target of 32% of GSDP set under the FRBM Act.  Outstanding debt represents accumulation of debt over the years.  

Table 1: Spending by Uttar Pradesh in 2020-21 as compared to Budget Estimates (in Rs crore)


2020-21 BE

2020-21 Actuals

% change from BE to Actuals

Net Receipts (1+2)




1. Revenue Receipts (a+b+c+d)




a. Own Tax Revenue




b. Own Non-Tax Revenue




c. Share in central taxes




d. Grants-in-aid from the Centre




Of which GST compensation grants




2. Non-Debt Capital Receipts




3. Borrowings




Of which GST compensation loan




Net Expenditure (4+5+6)




4. Revenue Expenditure




5. Capital Outlay




6. Loans and Advances




7. Debt Repayment




Revenue Balance




Revenue Balance (as % of GSDP)




Fiscal Deficit




Fiscal Deficit (as % of GSDP)




Note: A negative revenue balance indicates a deficit.  The actual fiscal deficit reported by Uttar Pradesh for 2020-21 in 2022-23 budget was 2.8% of GSDP.  This difference was due to higher GSDP figure reported by the state.  
Sources: Uttar Pradesh Budget Documents of various years; CAG; PRS.

Finances of State Public Sector Undertakings

Public sector undertakings (PSUs) are set up by the government to discharge commercial activities in various sectors.  As on March 31, 2021, there were 115 PSUs in Uttar Pradesh.  CAG analysed the performance of 38 PSUs.   Out of these 38 PSUs, 22 companies earned a profit of Rs 700 crore, while 16 companies posted a loss of Rs 7,411 crore in 2020-21.  Note that both the number of PSUs incurring losses and the quantum of losses has decreased since 2018-19.  In 2018-19, 20 PSUs had reported losses worth Rs 15,219 crore.  

Figure 1: Cumulative losses incurred by Uttar Pradesh PSUs (Rs crore)
 Sources: CAG; PRS.

Losses of power sector PSUs: Three power sector PSUs—Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation Limited, Purvanchal Vidyut Vitran Nigam Limited, and Paschimanchal Vidyut Vitran Nigam Limited—were the top loss incurring PSUs.  These three PSUs accounted for 73% of the total losses of Rs 7,411 crore mentioned above.   Note that as of June 2022, for each unit of power supplied, the revenue realised by UP power distribution companies (discoms) is 27 paise less than cost of supply.  This is better than the gap of 34 paise per unit at the national level.   However, the aggregate technical and commercial losses (AT&C) of the Uttar Pradesh discoms was 27.85%, considerably higher than the national average of 17.19%.  AT&C losses refer to the proportion of power supplied by a discom for which it does not receive any payment.

Off-budget borrowings: CAG also observed that the Uttar Pradesh government resorted to off-budget borrowing through state owned PSUs/authorities.  Off budget borrowings are not accounted in the debt of the state government and are on books of the respective PSUs/authorities, although, debt is serviced by the state government.  As a result, the outstanding debt reported in the budget does not represent the actual debt position of the state.  CAG identified off-budget borrowing worth Rs 1,637 crore.  The CAG recommended that the state government should avoid extra-budget borrowings.  It should also credit all the loans taken by PSUs/authorities on behalf of and serviced by the state government to state government accounts.

Management of Reserve Funds

The Reserve Bank of India manages two reserve funds on the behalf of state governments.   These funds are created to meet the liabilities of state governments.  These funds are: (i) Consolidated Sinking Fund (CSF), and (ii) Guarantee Redemption Fund (GRF).  They are funded by the contributions made by the state governments.  CSF is an amortisation fund which is utilised to meet the repayment obligations of the government.  Amortisation refers to payment of debt through regular instalments.  The interest accumulated in the fund is used for repayment of outstanding liabilities (which is the accumulation of total borrowings at the end of a financial year, including any liabilities on the public account).  

In line with the recommendation of the 12th Finance Commission, Uttar Pradesh created its CSF in March 2020.  The state government may transfer at least 0.5% of its outstanding liabilities at the end of the previous year to the CSF.  CAG observed that in 2020-21, Uttar Pradesh appropriated only Rs 1,000 crore to the CSF against the requirement of Rs 2,454 crore.  CAG recommended that the state government should ensure at least 0.5% of the outstanding liabilities are contributed towards the CSF every year.

GRF is constituted by states to meet obligations related to guarantees.  The state government may extend guarantee on loans taken by its PSUs.  Guarantees are contingent liabilities of the state government, as in case of default by the company, repayment burden will fall on the state government.  GRF can be used to settle guarantees extended by the government with respect to borrowings of state PSUs and other bodies.  The 12th Finance Commission had recommended that states should constitute GRF.  It was to be funded through guarantees fees to meet any sudden discharge of obligated guarantees extended by the states.  CAG noted that Uttar Pradesh government has not constituted GRF.  Moreover, the state has also not fixed any limits for extending guarantees.  

For an analysis of Uttar Pradesh’s 2022-23 budget, please see here.