A record 137 economies around the world have adopted key reforms that make it easier to start and operate small and medium-sized businesses, says Doing Business 2017: Equal Opportunity for All, the World Bank Group’s annual report on the ease of doing business.

The new report finds that developing countries carried out more than 75 per cent of the 283 reforms in the past year, with Sub-Saharan Africa accounting for over one-quarter of all reforms.

In its global country rankings of business efficiency, Doing Business 2017 awarded its coveted top spot to New Zealand, Singapore ranks second, followed by Denmark; Hong Kong SAR, China; Republic of Korea; Norway; United Kingdom; United States; Sweden; and Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

The world’s top 10 improvers, based on reforms undertaken, are Brunei Darussalam; Kazakhstan; Kenya; Belarus; Indonesia; Serbia; Georgia; Pakistan; United Arab Emirates (UAE); and Bahrain.

The report cites research that demonstrates that better performance in Doing Business is, on average, associated with lower levels of income inequality, thereby reducing poverty and boosting shared prosperity.

“Simple rules that are easy to follow are a sign that a government treats its citizens with respect. They yield direct economic benefits – more entrepreneurship; more market opportunities for women; more adherence to the rule of law,” said Paul Romer, World Bank Chief Economist and Senior Vice President. “But we should also remember that being treated with respect is something that people value for its own sake and that a government that fails to treat its citizens this way will lose its ability to lead.”

Doing Business data points to continued successes in the ease of doing business worldwide, as governments increasingly take up key business reforms. Starting a new business now takes an average of 21 days worldwide, compared with 46 days 10 years ago. Easing the requirements for Starting a Business is, by far, the most common area for reform, with 586 reforms recorded since 2004. Of these, 49 reforms were introduced during the past year.

This year’s Doing Business report includes a pilot indicator on public procurement regulations. The report studies procurement in 78 economies across five main areas: accessibility and transparency, bid security, payment delays, incentives for small and medium enterprises and complaints mechanisms. Public procurement represents, on average, 10 to 25 percent of an economy’s GDP, making the procurement market a unique pool of business opportunities for the private sector.

“The overarching goal of Doing Business is to enable entrepreneurship, for women and men, particularly in low and middle income countries. That governments around the world are taking up the challenge of improving the business climate, to enable job creation, is worth celebrating and we look forward to continue recording the successes we have seen this past year in the years to come,” said Rita Ramalho, Manager of the Doing Business project.

The full report and accompanying data- sets are available at www.doingbusiness.org

Source: World Bank