World Bank Lauds Developing Nations’ Competitiveness Push

Singapore ranked at the top of the World Bank’s annual competitiveness study for a seventh straight year, while developing nations were found to be accelerating reforms making it easier to open and operate businesses.

“Business regulatory practices have been slowly converging as economies with initially poor performance narrow the gap with better performers,” the Washington-based lender said in its 2013 Doing Business report, released yesterday. “Among the 50 economies with the biggest improvements since 2005, the largest share -- a third -- are in sub-Saharan Africa.”

Hong Kong had the second-best business environment, followed by New Zealand, the U.S., Denmark, Norway and the U.K., rankings that were unchanged from last year. The study, now in its 10th year and published together with the International Finance Corp., tracks indicators such as the time it takes to start a business, submit tax returns and export or import goods.

Poland, which ranked 55th, showed the most improvement of the 185 nations covered by the study, as it made it easier to register property, pay taxes, enforce contracts and resolve insolvency. Other countries to implement substantial reforms were Sri Lanka, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Burundi and Costa Rica.

“We recorded in excess of 200 reforms tracked by the business indicators across the seven regions covered by the World Bank,” Augusto Lopez-Claros, a global indicators and analysis director at the World Bank Group, said in conference call from Washington.

WEF, Switzerland

The study’s rankings differ from those of World Economic Forum’s global competitiveness index, which monitors different indicators, including macro-economic performance and public finances. The Geneva-based forum last month ranked Switzerland as the most competitive nation.

“You would have expected a deterioration in the rankings of most of the industrial countries” in the WEF survey, Lopez- Claros said. “Levels of public indebtedness have gone up. Increases in public indebtedness have no bearing on the indicators that we track.”

Greece, which has been at the forefront of the European debt crisis, improved its ranking to 78 from 100, while that of Italy rose to 73 from 87.

“What we are seeing in these countries is basically a renewed understanding that in order to address the fiscal problems, in order to get their economies onto a kind of sustainable path of fiscal adjustment and lower debt ratios, they need to address issues like competitiveness, issues of productivity, issues of business regulation,” Lopez-Claros said.

South Africa, which has Africa’s largest economy, ranked 39th, down four places from the previous study. Mauritius, ranked 19th, was found to have Africa’s most competitive economy.

The Central African Republic was found to be the worst place to do business, followed by Chad, the Republic of Congo and Eritrea.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mike Cohen in Cape Town at mcohen21@bloomberg.net;

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Nasreen Seria at nseria@bloomberg.net

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