Key reforms improve business climate in Middle East region

The World Bank Logo. (The Daily Star/Files)

BEIRUT: A new IFC and World Bank report finds that despite the challenges faced by governments in the Middle East and North Africa, 47 percent of countries in the region implemented regulatory reforms from June 2011 to June 2012 that made it easier to do business.

In the Doing Business 2013 report, which was released Tuesday, the IFC and the World Bank said the reform momentum in the region has slowed since the beginning of the Arab Spring in January 2011 as key countries grapple with changes in government and the challenges of transitioning to more democratic forms of governance.

Despite the challenges, the report shows some positive moves in the region. It added that Oman guaranteed the rights of borrowers to inspect their personal credit data.

“The United Arab Emirates further streamlined startup requirements, implemented an online system for filing and paying taxes, and reduced the time to obtain an electricity connection,” the report added.

IFC and the World Bank said that although countries in the region have made some strides in reducing the complexity and cost of regulatory processes, entrepreneurs across the region still contend with weak investor and property rights protections. With an average of 98 (out of 185) in the global ease of doing business ranking, the region still has much room to grow.

“The changes in the region suggest a renewed opportunity for governments to invest in governance structures and increase transparency in parallel with efforts to improve the business regulatory environment,” said Augusto Lopez-Claros, director of Global Indicators and Analysis, World Bank Group. “Moving to a system of more transparent, sensible and business-friendly rules will go a long way toward creating the conditions for more equitable economic growth and a faster pace of job creation.”

The report said that Singapore tops the global ranking on the ease of doing business for the seventh consecutive year. Joining it on the list of the 10 economies with the most business-friendly regulations are Hong Kong SAR, China, New Zealand, the United States, Denmark, Norway, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Korea, Georgia and Australia.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 24, 2012, on page 5.




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