WASHINGTON, October 25, 2016 – Business reform activity accelerated in Latin America and the Caribbean with over two-thirds of the region’s 32 economies taking steps to improve the business climate for entrepreneurs, says the World Bank Group’s Doing Business 2017: Equal Opportunity for All.
The report records a total of 32 reforms implemented by the region’s economies in the past year, compared with 24 the previous year.
Furthermore, Doing Business data shows efforts by governments to make it easier to do business in the region. For example, starting a business now takes an average of 32 days in Latin America and the Caribbean, compared with 55 days five years ago. However, there is a substantial variation across the region. For instance, in the area of Getting Electricity, entrepreneurs faced 97 power outages in 2015 in Guyana, compared with zero outages in Costa Rica.
“In the past year, business reforms in the region focused on the areas of Starting a Business, Paying Taxes and Trading Across Borders,” said Augusto Lopez-Claros, Director, Global Indicators Group, Development Economics, World Bank Group. “It is essential for economies in the region to further remove obstacles to growth in these areas in order to improve their business environment.”
On average, economies in Latin America and the Caribbean perform best in the areas of Getting Electricity and Getting Credit. The average time it takes a warehouse to get connected to the grid in the region is 66 days, about a month shorter than the global average of 93 days.
Yet, complying with tax regulations remains cumbersome in the region. The time required to pay taxes is 343 hours (43 working days) per year on average, compared to the global average of 251 hours (31 working days). However, nine economies took steps in the past year to improve the process of complying with tax requirements, while Guatemala made paying taxes less costly for a medium sized company by reducing the rate of corporate income tax.
Nine economies in the region implemented more than one reform making it easier to do business: Argentina, The Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guyana, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico (United States). Jamaica adopted an automated customs data management system which reduced the time for traders’ documentary compliance. Ecuador made starting a business easier by eliminating the need to publish company charters in local newspapers. Puerto Rico (U.S.) made registering property easier by digitizing its land records and improving the quality of infrastructure and transparency of its land administration system.
For the first time, the report includes a gender dimension in three indicators: Starting a Business, Registering Property and Enforcing Contracts. The report finds that a few economies in the region, such as Haiti, and Suriname, place additional legal barriers in front of women entrepreneurs. For instance, in Suriname, married women need to provide their husband's identification documents in order to start a business.
The Paying Taxes indicator has been expanded to cover post-filing processes, such as tax audits and VAT refund. Economies in the region generally underperform in these additional areas. For example tax audit compliance time is lengthy in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.
The full report and accompanying datasets are available at www.doingbusiness.org
 Chile, which is classified as an OECD high-income economy, is not included in the reform count and regional averages.