Complex Made Simple

Led by UAE, MENA economies rise in ease of doing business rankings

Business and legal reforms would give a country an edge over others. This has been proven in the case of the UAE, which announced many sweeping reforms in this year alone. The country’s efforts clearly paid off when it, along with Bahrain, featured among the world’s top ten improvers, based on reforms undertaken, on the World Bank’s annual report on the ease of doing business.

According to Doing Business 2017: Equal Opportunity for All, released on Wednesday, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region saw the most reforms implemented in the past year since 2009 to make it easier to start and operate small and medium-sized businesses. There were a total of 35 reforms in 15 of the region’s 20 economies, a significant increase from the annual average of 19 reforms over the past five years.

The UAE retained its position as the number one among the countries in the region and, globally, climbed five spots up from last year’s position to rank 26th in the world, while Bahrain and Oman ranked 63 and 66 respectively.

The region’s economies brought in reforms in various areas, such as starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, protecting minority investors and labour market regulation.

However, the report lamented that the region features the greatest gender disparities, with 70 per cent of the economies creating barriers for women entrepreneurs.

“Simple rules that are easy to follow are a sign that a government treats its citizens with respect. They yield direct economic benefits – more entrepreneurship, more market opportunities for women, more adherence to the rule of law,” said Paul Romer, World Bank’s chief economist and senior vice-president.

“But we should also remember that being treated with respect is something that people value for its own sake and that a government that fails to treat its citizens this way will lose its ability to lead,” he added.

Globally, a record 137 economies have adopted key reforms, with developing countries carrying out more than 75 per cent of the 283 reforms in the past year. Sub-Saharan Africa accounted for more than a quarter of all reforms.

New Zealand topped the ease of doing business rankings, while Singapore came second, followed by Denmark; Hong Kong SAR, China; the Republic of Korea; Norway; the United Kingdom; the United States; Sweden; and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Apart from the UAE and Bahrain, Brunei Darussalam, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Belarus, Indonesia, Serbia, Georgia and Pakistan made it to the top improvers’ list.

“Government policy plays a huge role in the daily operations of domestic small and medium-sized firms, and onerous regulation can divert the energies of entrepreneurs away from developing their businesses or innovating. This is why we collect the Doing Business data, to encourage regulation that is designed to be smart, efficient, accessible and simple,” said Augusto Lopez-Claros, director of the World Bank’s Global Indicators Group.