Why the World Bank is cool

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I never thought I'd write a post with a title like this, but an article in the Economist has made it clear. The World Bank...is...cool! (OK, perhaps the Economist is not the authority on this one, but the article does at least connect the World Bank to Apple, however indirectly.)  

This week's Economist has a special report on entrepreneurship, and an article called Entrepreneurialism has Become Cool contains high praise for the World Bank's Doing Business project. The Economist connects the dots between the Doing Business project and 'cool' entrepreneurialism. And I quote:

The world’s governments are now competing to see who can create the most pro-business environment. In 2003 the World Bank began to publish an annual report called Doing Business, rating countries for their business-friendliness by measuring things like business regulations, property rights and access to credit. It demonstrated with a wealth of data that economic prosperity is closely correlated with a pro-business environment. This might sound obvious. But Doing Business did two things that were not quite so obvious: it put precise numbers on things that people had known about only vaguely, and it allowed citizens and investors to compare their country with 180 others.

This “naming and shaming” caused countries to compete fiercely to improve their position in the World Bank’s rankings. Since 2004 various countries have brought in more than 1,000 reforms. Three of the top reformers in 2007-08 were African—Senegal, Burkina Faso and Botswana. Saudi Arabia too has made a lot of progress. Doing Business is also encouraging countries to learn from each other.

Most rich countries are working all the time to make it easier to start new businesses. In Canada, for example, it is now possible to start a business with just one procedure. But the list of top reformers includes all sorts of unexpected places, and the range of reforms that have been undertaken is impressive. India has concentrated on technology, for example, introducing electronic registration for businesses; China has put a great deal of effort into improving access to credit. Robert Litan, of the Kauffman Foundation, suggests that the World Bank may have done more good by compiling Doing Business than by lending much of the money that it has. 


Ryan Hahn

Operations Officer

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