The room was packed. About forty people, mostly journalists, came to the launch of Doing Business 2010 by video conference with Washington and several other East Asian and Pacific countries.
Mongolia is going through a lot of economic changes. It was hard-hit by the global economic crisis, which devastated commodity prices and strained the banking system. Mining could also transform the economy if negotiations between the government and Rio Tinto, a global mining corporation, are successful. Mongolia has a chance to show that it’s a good place to do business and to invest in. It would be good, then, to see signs of interest in reform by journalists and the public.
The bad news: Mongolia fell to the 60th position out of 183 economies. Although 60 is a respectable showing, Mongolia has been slipping year after year. This doesn’t mean that the business environment in Mongolia is getting worse. It means that other countries are reforming faster. For example, Kyrgyzstan and Belarus both overtook Mongolia this year.
Even though no reforms were recorded, Mongolia hasn’t been sitting still. Reform is a priority. By 2012, the government wants to be in the top ten for Asia, and in the top thirty globally. Ambitious. But achievable. But there’s hard work ahead.
Earlier this month, at the request of the government, a Doing Business team came to Mongolia to find ways to improve the business environment. There are promising developments. Mongolia’s first private credit bureau was established a few months ago, and in early 2010, the Customs Administration will automate its systems. Changes in procedures for starting businesses, protecting investors, and registering property could do a lot to improve the business environment relatively quickly.
Going forward will require close coordination with government. Fortunately, we have an excellent partner on the ground for this: the Consultative Council on Investment Climate and Private Sector Development in Mongolia, which promotes discussions between government and business to improve the business environment. The Council is taking the lead on working with the World Bank’s Doing Business team and is developing a work plan based on their recommendations for improving the business environment.
Kh. Amarsaikhan, the Head of the Council’s Secretariat, led the discussion on Mongolia’s reform efforts at the press conference today. He’s optimistic about Mongolia’s prospects. “In the past year, Mongolia has laid the groundwork for significant reform, which will improve the business environment and be reflected in next year’s Doing Business indicators,” he said.
I was encouraged by the interest of the journalists. Last year, only about12 showed up. They didn’t ask a single question. This year, there were over 30, and they asked question after question after question. Good ones.
This, I think, is the most important indicator of all.
Videoconference with World Bank Group headquarters
Dave in his other job as TV star