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Regulatory Reforms Hit Record Levels, World Bank Announces

by Glen Shapiro,, New York

10 September 2008

Regulatory reforms are gaining momentum worldwide, reaching record numbers this year, according to a report entitled 'Doing Business 2009,' which is the sixth in a series of annual reports published by IFC and the World Bank.

The new report identifies 239 reforms between June 2007 and June 2008 that make it easier to do business in 113 economies.

For the fifth year in a row, Eastern Europe and Central Asia led the world’s regions, with more than 90% of its countries making reforms. And the trend is moving eastward as newcomers join the list of economies making the most reforms. Azerbaijan is the world’s leading reformer of business regulations this year, with improvements in seven of the 10 areas studied by the report.

Africa also had a record year for regulatory reforms, with 28 countries completing 58 reforms that make it easier to do business - more than in any other year. And three of the world’s top 10 economies that reformed their business regulations are from the region.

The top 10 are, in order: Azerbaijan, Albania, the Kyrgyz Republic, Belarus, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Botswana, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and Egypt.

Doing Business ranks economies based on 10 indicators of business regulation that record the time and cost to meet government requirements in starting and operating a business, trading across borders, paying taxes, and closing a business.

The rankings do not reflect such areas as macroeconomic policy, quality of infrastructure, currency volatility, investor perceptions, or crime rates.

Singapore leads the global rankings on the overall regulatory ease of doing business for a third consecutive year. New Zealand is runner-up, and the United States third. Bahrain and Mauritius join the ranks of the top 25 this year.

“Economies need rules that are efficient, easy to use, and accessible to all who use them. Otherwise, businesses are trapped in the unregulated, informal economy, where they have less access to finance and hire fewer workers and where workers lack the protection of labor law,” explained Michael Klein, World Bank/IFC Vice President for Financial and Private Sector Development.

“Doing Business encourages good rules, and good rules are a better basis for healthy business than ‘who you know," he added.

In Africa, other economies making the most reforms of business regulations include two post-conflict countries, Liberia and Sierra Leone, along with Rwanda. Half the economies in Latin America made such reforms, while in the Middle East and North Africa and in East Asia nearly two-thirds did.

Seven OECD high-income economies, including Canada, Greece, Hungary, and Portugal, made regulatory reforms this year. Among the large emerging markets, China led the way - reforms there make it easier to access credit, pay taxes, and enforce contracts. South Africa has made it easier to start a business and pay taxes. Brazil and India both eased trade processes.

“Economies worldwide are increasingly committed to their agendas for business-friendly reforms,” commented Penelope Brook, Director, World Bank/IFC Financial and Private Sector Development Vice Presidency and a co-author of the report.

“We find newcomers looking to earlier reformers of businesses regulations. We are also seeing more such reforms in Africa, with many economies getting inspiration from the top-ranked African countries," she added.

Doing Business ranks 181 economies on the overall ease of doing business. The top 25 are, in order, Singapore, New Zealand, the United States, Hong Kong (China), Denmark, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Australia, Norway, Iceland, Japan, Thailand, Finland, Georgia, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Bahrain, Belgium, Malaysia, Switzerland, Estonia, Korea, Mauritius, and Germany.

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