AIM lauds Davao's improved city competitiveness rating

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/15 December)—Davao City has greatly improved its competitiveness based on the results of the Philippine Cities Competitiveness Ranking Project, an official at the Asian Institute of Management policy center said.

Lawyer Katrina Lat, program manager of Doing Business in the Philippines 2010 City Competitiveness Program implemented by AIM, pointed out that former mayor and now Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte used to be angry over Davao City’s poor showing in the Asian Institute of Management’s city competitiveness ranking,

“But after the anger simmered, city officials took the time to reflect, looked at its own system and found ways to improve it,” Lat said, adding the city’s poor performance during the first round of the competitiveness ranking made Duterte question their methodology.

“Now, Davao City has improved so much, it jumped 19 places from its 2008 ranking, which meant that they (city officials) really did something about it,” she said in the city competitiveness forum at the Grand Regal Hotel Tuesday.

Among the reforms that Davao City made in the last two years was the use of technology in the business application process.

“Davao made use of technology, so that business applicants can just download application forms from the website,” Lat said.

“The new system is less burdensome for City Hall, which also cuts down on expense, because they don’t need to print forms anymore,” she said.

The city also introduced a one time-assessment and payment system, so that entrepreneurs applying for business permits no longer have to go to several windows to pay and to have their application forms signed.

“It’s a lot easier and faster,” Lat said. “Davao city has a lot of good practices that other cities can learn from.”

In a Davao roadshow presentation on Wednesday, lawyer Aikaterini Leris, product specialist of the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation, also pointed out how Davao City cut down seven procedures and 16 days in the processing of business permits and licenses, the reason for the city’s marked improvement from the first survey in 2008.

The Doing Business in the Philippines 2011 sub-national survey ranks 25 key cities in the country under three categories; namely, the ease to start a business, the ease in processing construction permits and registering a property by measuring the time, the cost and how cumbersome these processes are.

The results, which indicate how friendly a particular city is to small and medium entrepreneurs, are benchmarked against 183 economies worldwide to measure the competitiveness of Philippines cities in the world.

Lat said Davao City also deferred some requirements to entrepreneurs, allowing them to open their businesses first and comply with the requirements 30 days after.

“They figured out how to do that and that’s something that other cities can learn from,” she said.

Although the Mindanao cities of Davao, Cagayan de Oro and Butuan are consistently in the top 10 of the Doing Business ranking in the two categories, they are not faring well in the third category, which is the ease of registering properties.

“Transfer of property from one company to another is critical for business operations because entrepreneurs need property to obtain credit from the banks, Lat said, adding, “businesses need collateral and banks accept land as collateral.”

“But this (registering property) is an area in which the cities of Mindanao are not doing very well,” she said. “Unfortunately, wala kayo sa top 20.”

Davao, which fares better than the other cities in Mindanao only made it to number 20, Zamboanga, 23, Cagayan de Oro, 24, and General Santos, the 25th of the 25 cities that were ranked.

Lat pointed out, however, that the culprit is not City Hall but the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Registry of Deeds which take too long to process the documents for the transfer of property.

The Doing Business Survey, which also benchmarks the performance of Philippine cities against 183 leading economies in the world, only complements the Philippine Cities Competitiveness Ranking Project, which ranks key cities in the country in terms of competitiveness drivers, including quality of life, the cost of doing business, dynamism of local economy, responsiveness of local government to business needs, and infrastructure.

Davao City topped the rest of the country in the quality of life and the cost of doing business in the country while the cities of Cagayan de Oro, General Santos and the emerging city of Butuan have consistently made it to the top 10. (Germelina Lacorte/MindaNews)