Business Reforms Pick Up in Middle East and North Africa, Despite Conflict, Says Doing Business Report

October 27, 2015

WASHINGTON, October 27, 2015 – The pace of business regulatory reforms picked up during the past year in the Middle East and North Africa, despite conflict and turmoil in the region, says the World Bank Group’s annual ease of doing business measurement.

Released today, Doing Business 2016: Measuring Regulatory Quality and Efficiency finds that 11 of the region’s 20 economies implemented a total of 21 reforms facilitating the ease of doing business. This is a significant increase compared to the annual average of 16 reforms during the past five years.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is the region’s top ranked economy, with a global ranking of 31, while countries experiencing conflict and violence are amongst the world’s lowest ranked, including Iraq (ranked 161), Libya (188), Syria (175) and Yemen (170).

“Despite the turmoil in several economies in the Middle East and North Africa, the pace of business reforms activity in the region is encouraging,” said Rita Ramalho, Manager of the Doing Business project “There is a lot of room for improvement, however. The share of economies reforming in the region remains lower than the global average, and Getting Credit is harder in the Middle East and North Africa than anywhere else, partly due to the absence of comprehensive credit bureaus that provide information relevant for assessing credit-worthiness.”

Morocco and the UAE continue to lead the region in reform activity as both economies undertook four reforms each during the past year. Morocco made Starting a Business easier by eliminating the need to file a declaration of business incorporation with the Ministry of Labor. The UAE was the only economy in the region that reformed in the area of Enforcing Contracts. As a result, commercial disputes in the UAE are now resolved in 495 days, which is less than the average of 538 days in the high-income Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) economies.

Both Saudi Arabia and Oman improved the most globally in the areas of Registering Property and Getting Electricity, respectively. Saudi Arabia introduced a new computerized land registry system. It now takes an entrepreneur only six days to register property in Saudi Arabia, faster than in the Republic of Korea. Oman enhanced its measurements and tracking of power outages, making it is easier to assess the reliability of the electrical grid and its effect on the productivity of firms.

Economies in the region carried out the most reforms in the area of Getting Electricity (4 reforms), followed by Starting a Business (3), Dealing with Construction Permits (3) and Trading Across Borders (3).  

Challenges, however, remain in a number of areas. For example, on Starting a Business, it costs an average of 26 percent of income per capita for local entrepreneurs to start their business, compared to 3 percent in the OECD.  

This year’s Doing Business report completes a two-year effort to expand benchmarks that measure the quality of regulation, as well as the efficiency of the business regulatory framework, in order to better capture realities on the ground. On the five indicators that saw changes in this report – Dealing with Construction Permits, Getting Electricity, Enforcing Contracts, Registering Property and Trading Across Borders – Middle East and North Africa economies do not perform well. On Getting Electricity, for instance, the new dataset finds that several regional economies face either frequent outages or do not track them adequately.  

 Ranks of other large economies in the region are Algeria (163), Egypt (131), Iran (118), Morocco (75), Qatar (68), Saudi Arabia (82) and Tunisia (74).  

The full report and accompanying datasets are available at

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