New Zealand remains top of World Bank’s rankings despite no reforms in past year
The World Bank said New Zealand had retained its position in its Doing Business report ahead of 190 other countries, despite not implementing any reforms in the last year.
The UK slipped to ninth place while Norway climbed to seventh in a year when the World Bank said governments pressed ahead with a record number of reforms to business regulations and tax rules to support private businesses.
Georgia, the former Soviet satellite state, retained its position at number six in the rankings, despite persistent criticism from aid agencies that the World Bank was rewarding a country with high levels of inequality, showing that a business-friendly environment is not in and of itself a means of alleviating poverty.
Macedonia, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and Mauritius are also among the business-friendly countries in the World Bank’s top 20 that rank among the highest in Oxfam’s list of unequal nations.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development criticised Mauritius last year for acting as a tax haven and leaching tax revenues from mainland African nations. Singapore, often held up as a model for post-Brexit Britain, recently topped Oxfam’s list of unequal nations.
The World Bank Group’s president, Jim Yong Kim, said the private sector played an important role in “creating sustainable economic growth and ending poverty around the world”.
“Fair, efficient, and transparent rules, which Doing Business promotes, are the bedrock of a vibrant economy and entrepreneurship environment,” he said. “It’s critical for governments to accelerate efforts to create the conditions for private enterprise to thrive and communities to prosper.”
The report emphasises the efforts by developing countries to implement electronic tax payments, speedy procedures for setting up a business and the low cost and ease of settling disputes.
It said a broad cross-section of economies in sub-Saharan Africa carried out 107 reforms in the last year, setting a record for a third consecutive year.
The region is expected to experience the highest population growth of any region in the world over the next 30 years, raising concerns that the most populous nations will struggle to feed and employ tens of millions of young workers.
Rwanda, which recently spent £30m in a sponsorship deal with Arsenal football club, carried out the most reforms in the region in past year, with seven, and moved up to 29th in the World Bank ranking.
“The latest improvements in Rwanda, which has carried out the most reforms since the inception of Doing Business 16 years ago, included making starting a business less costly by replacing electronic billing machines with free software for [VAT] invoices.
Rwanda also improved arbitration in land disputes, an area in which it is second only to New Zealand, strengthened insolvency laws to give creditors greater control and improved access to electricity, the World Bank said.
Rwanda was among this year’s top 10 improvers with Afghanistan, Djibouti, China, Azerbaijan, India, Togo, Kenya, Côte d’Ivoire and Turkey.
Shanta Devarajan, the World Bank’s senior director for development economics and acting chief economist, said: “The diversity among the top improvers shows that economies of all sizes and income levels, and even those in conflict can advance the business climate for domestic small and medium enterprises.
“Doing Business provides a road map that different governments can use to increase business confidence, innovation, and growth and reduce corruption.”