A recent World Bank Group report finds that local entrepreneurs have faced challenging circumstances in the past year in the Middle East. While several economies improved the business environment for local firms—such as the UAE, among this year’s 10 top global improvers—the pace of regulatory reform in the Middle East and North Africa region was comparatively slow.
Doing Business 2015: Going Beyond Efficiency finds that 55% of the region’s economies reformed business regulations—compared with 60% in East Asia and the Pacific but notes that the scope of business regulatory reforms remained narrow. In the past year, economies in the region implemented the most regulatory reforms in the area of trade. Jordan improved port infrastructure, thereby reducing port and terminal handling time, for example.
“While regional unrest continues to roil the Middle East and North Africa, several economies in the region have made notable efforts to improve their business environment,” said Rita Ramalho, Doing Business report lead author, World Bank Group. “In the past year, the UAE improved its business environment the most in the region across multiple areas captured by the report, making it one of the 10 top global improvers. It enhanced the administrative efficiency of its land registry, improved access to credit information, and strengthened minority investor protections.”
The report this year expands the data for three of the 10 topics covered, and there are plans to do so for five more topics next year. In addition, the ease of doing business ranking is now based on the distance to frontier score. This measure shows how close each economy is to global best practices in business regulation. A higher score indicates a more efficient business environment and stronger legal institutions.
The report finds that Singapore tops the global ranking on the ease of doing business. Joining it on the list of the top 10 economies with the most business-friendly regulatory environments are New Zealand; Hong Kong; Denmark; Korea; Norway; US; UK; Finland, and Australia.