Suppose that one were to divide the countries included in the latest Doing Business report into two groups. Call the first group (made up of some 44 countries) the “worst quartile”—that is, the countries with the costliest and most complex procedures and the weakest institutions. Call the other group the “best three quartiles.” Then let’s ask ourselves: how many days did it take to establish a business in both groups in 2005? The answer is 113 days in the worst quartile and 29 days in the best three quartile countries, meaning that in 2005 there was a gap of 84 days between the two sets. Now, let’s repeat the exercise for 2013. The worst quartile is down to 49 days and the best three quartiles is down to 16; the gap between the two has narrowed to 33 days, which is still sizable but a lot less than 84. Repeat the same exercise for time to register property and time to export a container. For property registration, the gap in 2005 was 192 days and by 2013 it has narrowed to 63. For time to export, the gap in 2005 was 32 days and in 2013 it was down to 23. (The figures are presented in the charts below. Only a small subset of the indicators has been included here, for illustrative purposes).
One of my first assignments in the World Bank, some 13 years ago, was in a small and complicated country, better known for coups and mercenaries than for statistical capacity. Before I set off to the Comoro Islands, my then manager (now an established World Bank Vice-president) gave me the following priceless advice: “When you get there, make sure to get a lot of data. It may be difficult to get and sometimes even flawed, but data has one great advantage: It cuts through a lot of crap.”
Numbers are indeed beautiful. They can help bring clarity to our lives and save us time as well as resources. But raw data can be messy and you also need a good system for deciding which numbers to use and how to interpret them. Last week’s launch of the 2014 Doing Business rankings reminded me of the advice my then boss had given me. Doing Business started from the premise that companies are the backbone of any economy but that investors often lacked knowledge of the conditions in “frontier economies”. With the benefit of an annual assessment of the business environment in each country, investors could make more informed decisions. As for policy makers, they could more easily attract investors, provided they made a genuine effort in cutting red tape and supporting businesses.
Does Rwanda's impressive growth tell the whole story? (Credit: CIAT, Flickr Creative Commons)
Over the last few years, a lot of optimism has been built around Rwanda being the next big thing in Africa. I guess one reason for this optimism is Rwanda’s impressive list of business friendly reforms and its equally impressive growth performance. Between 2006 and 2011, per capita income in Rwanda grew at an average rate of 5.1 percent per annum, fifth highest in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) region and much better than the regional average rate of 2.4 percent. Moreover, Rwanda currently ranks third in the region in the quality of the business environment as measured by the World Bank Group’s Ease of Doing Business index. So, is Rwanda really the next big thing in Africa?
Business reforms can spur economic dynamism in the East African Community
East Africa is famous for its breathtaking landscapes and its unique concentration of wild animals. Could it also become as famous for its dynamic economic development?
In 2009 I came to Tanzania to work on tax harmonization in the East African Community (EAC). The Common Market Protocol was about to be signed and one of the biggest goals was to tap into the economic potential of the region by facilitating (cross-border) trade and improving the business climate. A year later, the five Partner States of the East African Community ratified the Common Market Protocol in order to realize “accelerated economic growth and development through the attainment of the free movement of goods, persons, labor, the rights of establishment and residence and the free movement of services and capital”. The overarching goal of the East African Community is to achieve sustainable economic growth in order to increase employment and reduce poverty.
A financial crisis is a difficult time to start a business. Credit is tight, demand is low, and the future is uncertain. Even in recovery periods, entrepreneurs may be skittish about making the enormous sacrifices necessary to launch a new enterprise and lenders may be unwilling to lend to new borrowers. New data from the Entrepreneurship Database – a collaborative effort between the Bank's Development Economics Group (DEC) and Doing Business - provide an interesting look at the relationship between new firm creation and the recent financial crisis and ongoing recovery. The main indicator is new firm entry density, defined as the ratio of new registrations of limited liability companies to the working age population. The data show that new firm entry density (“entry density”, for short) dropped sharply in response to the 2008-09 financial crisis but by 2011 had recovered to pre-crisis levels in many economies.
New firm entry density over time: Percent change in entry density as compared to 2004 levels (Source: Entrepreneurship Database, 2012)
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Ambitious and fast rising—these words aptly describe modern Indonesia. Amidst a global economic slowdown, Indonesia was the third fastest growing economy among the G-20 for 2009 and it continues to post strong economic growth, at a projected rate of 6.4% for 2012. Improving economic competitiveness by creating a more salutary business climate is one of Indonesia’s national priorities for 2010 to 2014.
Indonesia is walking the talk. Doing Business in Indonesia 2012 launched January 31 in Jakarta, finds that all 14 cities previously measured in Doing Business in Indonesia 2010 have improved business registration processes over the last two years, while 10 out of 14 cities expedited the approval of construction permits. During his keynote address on the launching of the report, the Minister of State Ministry for Administrative Reforms talked about the cities moving from 'comfort zone' to 'competitive zone'.
The region may have once been defined by the term 'balkanization’ - which refers to the disintegration of a state into smaller, antagonistic parts-but no longer. Recent history has instead taken on a more positive hue-one of increasing cooperation, economic growth and foreign direct investment. Indeed, South East Europe has been improving business regulations, often in response to circumstances—such as the prospect of joining the EU or as a way of mitigating the effects of the global financial crisis.
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Editor's Note: The following post was submitted jointly by Pilar Sanchez-Bella and Brice Richard both members of the Doing Business Team.
The Doing Business in Juba 2011 report was launched last May 16 in Juba, Southern Sudan. The city profile, which covers 9 Doing Business indicators, is one of the first assessments of business regulations in Juba, the current capital of Southern Sudan. Why is this report noteworthy? First, it helps fill the micro-level data gap in the country by providing baseline data.
A concerted effort is being made by institutions like the World Bank to quantify various types of transaction costs incurred by businesses (Doing Business, Enterprise Surveys). The rationale for focusing on transaction costs (and reducing them) is usually couched in mainstream economic concerns. That is, in an attempt to increase growth rate of GDP per capita, create jobs, reduce poverty, and so on.
Many African countries face a dilemma. After a decade of consistent economic growth, often propelled by high commodity prices, half the continent’s population still lives in poverty. Even if rising demand for raw materials from the booming cities of China and India, among others, has driven growth in Africa’s mining sector, most of the continent has not yet translated mineral wealth into industrialization and widespread economic development. Most African countries continue to export raw materials and then pay a premium to import the products made with them.