Photo: Arne Hoel
Description: Fish market and vegetable market, Nouakchott. The daily catch is brought here by the fishermen’s wives and family members to sell the fish.
As the World Bank Group’s flagship publication, Doing Business, celebrates its 15th edition, Mauritania continues to thrive as a major reformer in investment climate policy. The country was highlighted in the Doing Business 2016 report among the top 10 reformers worldwide and the current 2018 report shows that Mauritania outperforms the regional average.
Following a downward trend between 2010 and 2014, Mauritania has been steadily improving its ease of doing business performance. Figure 1 shows how, in just three year, a series of reforms that began in earnest during 2015, were key to help the country jump a remarkable 26 places from 176th in 2015 to 150th this year in 2018.
Small differences in the time and cost to trade can determine whether or not a country participates in global value chains. In this respect, the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), which came into force on February 22, 2017, is a landmark achievement given its comprehensive coverage of the issues around cutting red tape and promoting efficiency and transparency, as well as the fact that it is the first multilateral agreement since the establishment of the WTO in 1995. Coincidentally, the Trading Across Borders (TAB) indicator of Doing Business measures the efficiency of national regulations in trade facilitation and keeps track of relevant reforms, allowing us to analyze how the provisions of the TFA are related to the reform efforts of governments around the world.
While I welcome criticism and comments on the Doing Business (DB) report—or any other data and research product of the World Bank, for that matter—I find Justin Sandefur’s and Divyanshi Wadhwa’s (SW) recent blog posts on DB in Chile and India neither enlightening nor useful.
With more jobs and competitiveness in mind, many economies worldwide have simplified their business start-up rules and regulations over recent years. Since the first Doing Business report was launched 15 years ago in 2003, a total of 626 national reforms that reduced the time and the costs of starting a business were recorded globally.
Doing Business 2018 : Reforming to Create Jobs
World Bank Development Economics
Fifteen in a series of annual reports comparing business regulation in 190 economies, Doing Business 2018 measures aspects of regulation affecting 10 areas of everyday business activity: • Starting a business • Dealing with construction permits • Getting electricity • Registering property • Getting credit • Protecting minority investors • Paying taxes • Trading across borders • Enforcing contracts • Resolving insolvency These areas are included in the distance to frontier score and ease of doing business ranking. Doing Business also measures features of labor market regulation, which is not included in these two measures. The report updates all indicators as of June 1, 2017, ranks economies on their overall “ease of doing business”, and analyzes reforms to business regulation – identifying which economies are strengthening their business environment the most. Doing Business illustrates how reforms in business regulations are being used to analyze economic outcomes for domestic entrepreneurs and for the wider economy. It is a flagship product produced in partnership by the World Bank Group that garners worldwide attention on regulatory barriers to entrepreneurship. More than 137 economies have used the Doing Business indicators to shape reform agendas and monitor improvements on the ground. In addition, the Doing Business data has generated over 2,182 articles in peer-reviewed academic journals since its inception.
Navigating the digital future: The disruption of capital projects
McKinsey & Company
Productivity in the construction sector has stagnated for decades, with the average capital project reaching completion 20 months behind schedule and 80 percent over budget. Some overruns result from increased project complexity and scale, but another factor also looms large: all stakeholders in the capital-projects ecosystem—project owners, contractors, and subcontractors—have resisted adopting digital tools and platforms. These include advanced analytics, automation, robotics, 5-D building information modeling (BIM), and online document-management or data-collection systems. Meanwhile, companies in sectors ranging from government to manufacturing have significantly reduced costs and schedules by aggressively pursuing digital solutions.
This year, the annual Doing Business Report – by far the most anticipated and cited World Bank publication – celebrates its 15th year. Starting in 2003, the fledgling report, which covers about 130 countries, has grown into its teens garnering admiration and criticism in equal measure. Some absolutely love it, while others argue that its flaws outweigh its strong points.
Regardless, nobody can deny that the Doing Business report has been a major catalyst for reforms across the world – 3,200 reforms of business regulation have been counted to date, spurred by the Report and carried out in line with the methodology of its indicators.
Two years ago, we started counting how many Sri Lankan agencies were involved in trade facilitation processes such as issuing permits and managing the movement of goods in and out of the country. We counted at least 22 agencies in this assessment, and today, the Department of Commerce estimates that number at least 34 agencies are involved in issuing permits or publishing regulations that affect trade.
We know trade is critical to Sri Lanka’s future and that there are strong links between trade, economic growth and poverty reduction.
However, the trading community reports a lack of transparency, confusion around rules and regulations, poor coordination between various ministries and a dearth of critical infrastructure—you can see why trade has suffered in Sri Lanka.
When the World Bank evaluates a country’s performance in critical rankings like Doing Business, the ease of trading across borders is one of the benchmarks we consider. In this, and in other lists like the Logistics Performance Index, Sri Lanka is underperforming compared with its potential. Here, the average trade transaction involves over 30 different parties with different objectives, incentives, competence and constituencies they answer to, and up to 200 data elements, many of which are repeated multiple times. This environment constrains the growth of Sri Lanka’s private sector, especially SMEs.
But now for the good news. By ratifying the World Trade Organisation Trade Facilitation Agreement, Sri Lanka has signalled its determination to intensify reform efforts.
Global benchmarking reports are great conversation starters. Here in Singapore, a nation defined by its drive for excellence, these benchmarking reports are held as evidence of the country’s development success. From topping the global education index PISA, the Global Competitiveness Index, and the Leading Maritime Capitals of the World Report, Singapore takes great pride in being first, in Asia if not globally.
An important global ranking for Singapore is the Doing Business survey, a ranking the island nation topped for many years, indicating the ease with which business can be done in the little red dot.
A Thai business owner in Chiang Mai might open a small resort serving local people as well as tourists. It would probably take him about two months to set up his business after finding the location, staff and getting the company registered. He would find it reasonably easy to start his business.
At the same time, a foreign investor living in Vietnam and considering whether to invest 3 million baht in Thailand to start a restaurant might have a different experience. She would likely find the process a bit complex and challenging. Most websites with the relevant information are written in Thai, the paperwork involved in registering a company can be pretty daunting for foreigners, and getting work permits and a business license can take longer than expected.