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PRESS RELEASE October 31, 2017

Doing Business Records Nearly 3,200 Reforms in 15 Years to Improve Business Climate Worldwide

WASHINGTON, October 31, 2017 – Governments in 119 economies carried out 264 business reforms in the past year to create jobs, attract investment and become more competitive, says the World Bank Group’s latest Doing Business 2018: Reforming to Create Jobs report.

Marking its 15th anniversary, the report notes that 3,188 business reforms have been carried out since it began monitoring the ease of doing business for domestic small and medium enterprises around the world.

“Job creation is one of the transformational gains that countries and communities can achieve when the private sector is allowed to flourish. Fair, efficient and transparent rules, which Doing Business promotes, improve governance and tackle corruption,” said World Bank Chief Executive Officer Kristalina Georgieva.

Download the Doing Business 2018: Reforming to Create Jobs report.

Developing countries carried out 206 reforms, accounting for 78 percent of the total reforms, with Sub-Saharan Africa implementing 83 reforms, a record for a second consecutive year for the region, and South Asia implementing a record 20 reforms. A large number of reforms centered on improving access to credit and registering a new business, with 38 reforms each, as well as facilitating cross border trade, with 33 reforms.

In its annual ease of doing business rankings, New Zealand, Singapore and Denmark retained their first, second and third spots, respectively, followed by Republic of Korea; Hong Kong SAR, China; United States; United Kingdom; Norway; Georgia; and Sweden.

This year’s top 10 improvers, based on reforms undertaken, are Brunei Darussalam (for a second consecutive year); Thailand; Malawi; Kosovo; India; Uzbekistan; Zambia; Nigeria; Djibouti; and El Salvador. For the first time, the group of top 10 improvers includes economies of all income levels and sizes, with half being top improvers for the first time – El Salvador, India, Malawi, Nigeria, and Thailand.

“Public policy plays a decisive role in enabling small and medium businesses to start, operate and expand. Governments around the world are increasingly turning to Doing Business for objective data to underpin their actions. More importantly, the fact that Doing Business is transparent and publicly available means that citizens can hold governments accountable for reforms that benefit firms, households, and society at large,” said Shanta Devarajan, the World Bank’s Senior Director for Development Economics.

Since its inception, Doing Business has recorded business reforms in 186 of the 190 economies it now monitors. Rwanda has implemented the highest number of business reforms over the past 15 years, with a total of 52 reforms, followed by Georgia, which advanced this year into the top 10 ranked economies (47 reforms) and Kazakhstan and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (41 reforms each).

Easing the requirements for Starting a Business has seen the largest number of reforms, with 626 reforms recorded in the past 15 years. As a result, the time needed to start a new small or medium business has more than halved to an average of 20 days worldwide, compared with 52 days in 2003. In addition, in 65 economies, entrepreneurs can complete at least one business incorporation procedure online, compared with only nine in 2003. Similar progress is also seen in other Doing Business areas.  

“As we celebrate the 15th anniversary of Doing Business, it is particularly gratifying to see that many of the reforms are being carried out in economies and sectors where they are most needed. We look forward to continuing to shine a light on the real hurdles faced by entrepreneurs, both women and men, and celebrating policy change successes,” said Rita Ramalho, Acting Director of the World Bank’s Global Indicators Group, which produces the report.

The report also monitors hurdles faced specifically by women in the areas of Starting a Business, Registering Property and Enforcing Contracts. This year’s report records a welcome reform by the Democratic Republic of Congo, which eliminated the requirement for women to obtain their husband’s permission to register a business. However, 36 economies continue to place obstacles for women entrepreneurs, with 22 economies imposing additional steps for married women to start a business and 14 limiting women’s ability to own, use and transfer property.

This year’s report includes two case studies on transparency, which analyze data from business registries and land administrations and find that economies with more transparent and accessible information have lower levels of corruption and bribery. A third case study on private sector participation in formulating construction regulation finds that such rules exhibited higher costs and a propensity for conflicts of interest. A fourth case study highlights three successful insolvency reforms in France, Slovenia and Thailand, and lessons that are transferable to other economies.

By region, economies in East Asia and the Pacific implemented 45 reforms in the past year. The region is home to two of the world’s top 10 ranked economies, Singapore and Hong Kong SAR, China, and two of this year’s top 10 improvers, Brunei Darussalam and Thailand. In the past 15 years, the region has implemented 371 reforms. As a result, the time needed to start a new business has been more than halved to 24 days now, from 50 days in 2003.

The Europe and Central Asia region implemented 44 reforms during the past year. The region is host to a top ranked economy, with Georgia in ninth place, and two of this year’s top improvers, Kosovo and Uzbekistan. In the past 15 years, the region has been an active reformer, with 673 reforms implemented. It now takes 10.5 days to register a new business in the region, compared with 43 days in 2003.

A total of 26 reforms were carried out in the Latin America and the Caribbean region, with El Salvador earning a spot among this year’s top improvers for the first time. The region has implemented 398 reforms in the past 15 years. Now, starting a business in the region takes on average 38 days, compared to 78 days 15 years ago.

The economies of the Middle East and North Africa implemented 29 reforms in the past year. The region has implemented 292 reforms in the past 15 years. As a result, it takes 17 days on average to start a business in the region, compared to 43 days in 2003. However, the region lags on gender-related issues, with 14 economies imposing additional barriers for women entrepreneurs.  

In South Asia, 20 reforms were implemented by six of the region’s eight economies. India carried out eight reforms, the highest number for the country in a single year. Over the past 15 years, the region has implemented 127 reforms. Fifteen years ago, it took over 50 days on average to start a business in the region, compared to 17 days now.

Reform activity continued to accelerate in Sub-Saharan Africa, with 36 economies implementing 83 business reforms in the past year. The region is home to three of this year’s top 10 improvers – Malawi, Nigeria, and Zambia. Over the past 15 years, the region has implemented 798 reforms. In 2003, it took 61 days on average to start a business in the region, compared to 22.5 days today.

The full report and its datasets are available at



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