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Singapore still No. 2 in ease of doing business: Report

25 Oct 2019

NZ tops World Bank ranking again; China, India among the 10 that have improved most

WASHINGTON • Singapore has retained its place as second best on a World Bank ranking for the ease of doing business amid a period fraught with trade tensions.

China and India made the top-10 list of governments that have done the most in the past year to improve the ease of doing business in their countries, the World Bank said.

Despite a bitter trade war in which the United States is demanding reforms from Beijing to protect intellectual property and open its economy further to American businesses, China made the top-10 improved list for the second year in a row.

With those improvements, China leapfrogged France to take the 31st spot on the "ease of doing business" ranking, moving up 15 places, according to the World Bank report on Wednesday.

New Zealand continues to top the rankings.

Hong Kong moved up a notch to third place, trading places with Denmark, while South Korea stayed in fifth. The US moved up two spots to No. 6, knocking Georgia back to seventh, while Britain, Norway and Sweden rounded out the top 10.

Despite US complaints, the report credited China with improving protections for minority investors, strengthening procedures for enforcing contracts and making trade easier with changes to Customs administration and port infrastructure.

"Removing barriers facing entrepreneurs generates better jobs, more tax revenues and higher incomes, all of which are necessary to reduce poverty and raise living standards," World Bank group president David Malpass said.

India landed on the most-improved list for the third year in a row, after making it easier to start a business by abolishing filing fees, lowering the time needed for and cost of seeking construction permits, and making trade easier with port improvements and an improved electronic platform for submitting documents.

The country jumped 14 places to No. 63 for ease of doing business.

The other eight economies where business climates improved the most were Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Togo, Bahrain, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Kuwait and Nigeria, the study found.

The World Bank studies reforms in 10 areas of business activity in 190 economies, including issues such as obtaining construction permits, getting electricity connections, access to credit, paying taxes, cross-border trade and enforcing contracts.

The best performers generally have "sound business regulations with a high degree of transparency".

A common theme across the highest-scoring economies was widespread use of electronic systems, according to the report.

All of the top 20 offer online business incorporation, electronic tax filing and online property transfers.

The study found a considerable disparity persists between low-and high-income economies for starting a business.

Entrepreneurs in low-income economies typically spend the equivalent of 50 per cent of income per capita to start a company, compared with just 4.2 per cent for their counterparts in high-income economies.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 25, 2019, with the headline 'Singapore still No. 2 in ease of doing business: Report'.