Ease of doing business 2.0: Ask the right questions

In her budget speech, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman expressed the government’s resolve to launch Ease of Doing Business 2.0 and Ease of Living programmes. To this end, she highlighted that in recent years, over 25,000 compliance requirements were reduced and 1,486 Union laws repealed. What was the nature of these compliances and laws? For how long did these remain in the statute books and through what process were these identified, reviewed and discarded? No additional information was provided in the budget or its accompanying documents.

A few days later, the minister of heavy industries clarified in the Rajya Sabha that this number (the clarification pegged the figure at over 27,000 compliances as on 7 February) was based on aggregates of data uploaded on the Regulatory Compliance portal by central ministries/departments and states/Union Territories. The portal, while live, remains inaccessible to the public, so the figure and its relevance cannot be put to open scrutiny.

As far as the repeal of laws goes, other than the farm laws’ withdrawal last year, the last Repeal and Amending Act was passed in 2019, and before that, two such acts were passed in 2017; 302 laws and 9 ordinances were repealed under these laws. In 2018, the National Commission of Backward Classes Act and legislations constituting subsidiaries of the State Bank of India were repealed. It is not clear how far back in time one would need to go to reach the official claim of 1,486.

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