WASHINGTON, October 24, 2019 – Countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) carried out a record new 35 reforms to improve the ease of doing business for their domestic enterprises, according to the World Bank Group’s Doing Business 2020 study. This is almost double the amount carried out in the previous 12-month period at 14 reforms.
All GCC economies carried out reforms that helped create jobs and stimulate private enterprises, improving the region’s average ease of doing business score by 2.9 points. These changes are motivated in part by the urgent need for economic diversification and foreign direct investment.
This year, the GCC hosts three of the top 10 global improvers – Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Kuwait, and they account for about two-thirds of the region’s 35 reforms. The United Arab Emirates remained the top performer in the MENA region and is part of the top 20 best performing economies globally at number 16.
"This success is an important milestone for the region," said Issam Abousleiman, World Bank Regional Director for the GCC. "The record number of implemented reforms is testimony to the ambitious reform agenda across the region and gives a strong signal that the GCC region is open for business."
With nine reforms made during the past year, Bahrain leads the region and the world. Bahrain recently introduced a new bankruptcy law, strengthened the rights of minority shareholders and revamped the process of obtaining building permits. Enforcing contracts was also made easier.
Saudi Arabia carried out eight reforms in the past year. It established a one-stop shop for company incorporation and eliminated the requirement for married women to provide additional documentation when applying for a national identity card. Further, the country made importing and exporting faster by enhancing the electronic trade single window, enabling risk-based inspections, launching an online platform for certification of imported goods, and upgrading infrastructure at the Jeddah Port. Other reforms led to improving access to credit, strengthening minority investor protections and facilitating the resolution of insolvency.
Kuwait earned a spot among the top 10 improvers for the first time by carrying out seven reforms. The building permitting process was streamlined by integrating additional authorities into the electronic permitting platform and inter-agency communication was enhanced. Kuwait made trading across borders easier by enhancing the customs risk management system and implementing a new electronic clearance system.
The United Arab Emirates and Oman each implemented four reforms. Both economies strengthened the rights of minority investors, streamlined business registration processes and made it easier for businesses to import and export goods.
Qatar, one of the top 20 global improvers in Doing Business 2020, embarked on an ambitious program to modernize public services. Kahramaa, the water and electricity utility company introduced a new process to receive and review applications through its online portal, reducing the time to obtain an electricity connection. The ministry of justice streamlined property registration procedures and improved the quality of its land administration system by publishing official service standards and court statistics on land disputes. The credit bureau started reporting credit data from a telecommunications company.
Overall, the region performs best in the areas of dealing with construction permits, registering property and paying taxes. Obtaining a building permit takes a third less time than among OECD high-income economies. Bahrain is the best global performer regarding fiscal compliance time.
The full study and its datasets are available at www.doingbusiness.org.