Singapore keeps 2nd place for ease of doing business; China, India among most improved: World Bank

The skyline of Singapore's central business district seen in a photo taken on Jan 9, 2019. PHOTO: ST FILE

WASHINGTON (AFP, BLOOMBERG) - China and India made the top 10 list of governments that have done the most in the past year to improve the ease of doing business in their countries, the World Bank said.

Despite a bitter trade war, in which the United States is demanding reforms from Beijing to protect intellectual property and open its economy further to American businesses, China made the top 10 improved list for the second year in a row.

With those improvements, China leapfrogged France to take the 31st spot in the "ease of doing business" ranking, moving up 15 places, according to the World Bank report on Wednesday (Oct 23).

New Zealand continues to top the global rankings, with Singapore retaining its second spot. Hong Kong moved up a notch to third place, trading places with Denmark, while South Korea stayed in fifth. The US moved up two spots to No 6, knocking Georgia back to seventh, while the UK, Norway and Sweden rounded out the top 10.

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Despite US complaints, the report credited China with improving protections for minority investors, strengthening procedures for enforcing contracts and making trade easier with changes to customs administration and port infrastructure.

"Removing barriers facing entrepreneurs generates better jobs, more tax revenues and higher incomes, all of which are necessary to reduce poverty and raise living standards," World Bank Group President David Malpass said in a statement.

India landed on the most-improved list for the third year in a row, making it easier to start a business by abolishing filing fees, lowering the time and cost of seeking construction permits and making trade easier with port improvements and an improved electronic platform for submitting documents.

The country jumped 14 places to number 63 in the global rankings.

The other eight economies where business climates improved the most were Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Togo, Bahrain, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Kuwait, China, India, and Nigeria, the study found.

The World Bank studies reforms in 10 areas of business activity in 190 economies, including issues like obtaining construction permits, getting electricity connections, access to credit, paying taxes, cross-border trade and enforcing contracts.

The best performers generally have "sound business regulation with a high degree of transparency," and a common theme across the highest-scoring economies was widespread use of electronic systems, according to the report. All of the top 20 offer online business incorporation, electronic tax filing, and online property transfers.

The study found a considerable disparity persists between low- and high-income economies for starting a business: Entrepreneurs in low-income economies typically spend the equivalent of 50 per cent of income per capita to start a company, compared with just 4.2 per cent for their counterparts in high-income economies.

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