Doing Business 2015: The latest edition of the World Bank's index of the ease of doing business in 189 economies, has Singapore and New Zealand in the top rankings and Ireland moves up to 2 ranks to 13th rank - Ireland had a 10th rank in the 2007 edition.
The report published in Washington DC on Tuesday finds that in the past year, governments around the world continued to implement a broad range of reforms aimed at improving the regulatory environment for local entrepreneurs. Economies that both improve the efficiency of regulatory procedures and strengthen the legal institutions that support enterprise, trade, and exchange are better able to facilitate growth and development, the report finds.
'Doing Business 2015: Going Beyond Efficiency' [pdf] finds that local entrepreneurs in 123 economies saw improvements in their regulatory environment in the past year. From June 2013 to June 2014, the report, which covers 189 economies worldwide, documented 230 business reforms—with 145 aimed at reducing the complexity and cost of complying with business regulations, and 85 aimed at strengthening legal institutions. Sub-Saharan Africa accounted for the largest number of reforms.
“An economy’s success or failure depends on many variables; among these, often overlooked, are the nuts and bolts that facilitate enterprise and business,” said Kaushik Basu, senior vice president and chief economist of the World Bank. “By this I mean the regulations that determine how easy it is to start a business, the speed and efficiency with which contracts are enforced, the paperwork needed for trade, and so on. Making improvements in these regulations is virtually costless, but it can play a transformative role in promoting growth and development.”
The Bank said that since its inception, Doing Business has captured more than 2,400 regulatory reforms making it easier to do business. These efforts have led to tangible results for small businesses all over the world. For example, 10 years ago, importing key inputs from overseas took 48 days for a Colombian entrepreneur; now, it takes only 13 days—the same as for an entrepreneur in Portugal. Similarly, starting a business took 57 days for a budding entrepreneur in Senegal 10 years ago; now that process requires just six days—just one more day than in Norway. And in India a little over a decade ago, an entrepreneur seeking a loan to grow his business would have had little luck, because financial institutions lacked access to information systems to assess creditworthiness. Today, thanks to the creation and expansion of a national credit bureau offering credit scores and coverage on par with those in some high-income economies, a small business in India with a good financial history is more likely to get credit and hire more workers.
Every year, Doing Business reports the economies that have improved the most in performance on its indicators since the previous year. This year’s report highlights 10 economies that have done so, including five in Sub-Saharan Africa. These 10 economies are Tajikistan, Benin, Togo, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Trinidad and Tobago, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Azerbaijan, Ireland, and the United Arab Emirates.
This year, for the first time, Doing Business collected data for a second city in the 11 economies with a population of more than 100m. These economies are Bangladesh, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Russian Federation, and the United States. The report finds that differences between cities are common in indicators measuring the steps, time, and cost to complete regulatory transactions where local agencies play a larger role.
The report this year also expands the data for three of the 10 topics covered, and there are plans to do so for five more topics next year. In addition, the ease of doing business ranking is now based on the distance to frontier score. This measure shows how close each economy is to global best practices in business regulation. A higher score indicates a more efficient business environment and stronger legal institutions.
The report finds that Singapore tops the global ranking on the ease of doing business. Joining it on the list of the top 10 economies with the most business-friendly regulatory environments are New Zealand; Hong Kong, China; Denmark; South Korea; Norway; the United States; the United Kingdom; Finland; and Australia.
Registering Property: Ireland made transferring property easier by improving its computerized system at the land registry and implementing an online system for the registration of title;
Getting Credit: Ireland improved its credit information system by passing a new act that provides for the establishment and operation of a credit registry; and
Enforcing Contracts: Ireland made enforcing contracts easier by amending the rules on the size of monetary claims that can be filed with courts at different levels. In addition, the time it takes to get an electricity connection improved.
When there is a slippage in these type of rankings, Irish ministers say nothing. Today, two ministers claimed credit:
Michael Noonan, finance minister, said: “I welcome the continued strong performance by Ireland in the Doing Business Report, which is reflective of the ongoing reforms being implemented in Ireland’s business and regulatory environment as we continue to improve our competitiveness. The Doing Business Report makes a valuable contribution as it encourages countries to benchmark themselves against the best performing economies and it supports the reform agenda at a global level. Importantly, it focuses on the quality of regulations and not just their efficiency”.
Noonan pointed to Bank using a new methodology and added: "On this basis, Ireland would actually have been ranked 17th last year: so, in fact, we have moved up four places to 13th this year."
Richard Bruton, enterprise minister, commented: "The Government has engaged intensively with the World Bank on competitiveness issues and I most recently met with senior officials from the World Bank in Washington on my trade mission to the US.
At this meeting I explained the structure and purpose of the Action Plan for Jobs which continues to identify and implement actions that specifically target areas of weakness in Ireland’s performance. I restated Ireland’s commitment to further improve our competitiveness."
Bruton's self-praise merits a dollop of salt but credit is due in respect of efforts of policy makers over the past 20 years in improving the business environment in the Irish economy - and that's a positive selling point.