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Top marks for Egypt, Saudi in 'Doing Business' report

Geneva, September 26, 2007

Egypt this year tops the World Bank's list of countries that have made the most progress in simplifying their business regulation, according to the annual 'Doing Business' report. Singapore was ranked as the best country in the world to do business in.

The International Finance Corp report, which looks at how government bureaucracy can affect, and often limit, business environments, also gave high marks for making it easier to conduct business to Saudi Arabia, Croatia, Ghana, Macedonia, Georgia, Colombia, Kenya, China and Bulgaria.

Singapore was followed by New Zealand, the US, Hong Kong, Denmark, Britain, Canada, Ireland, Australia and Iceland on the list of best countries to do business in. The list consisted of 178 countries.

Simeon Djankov, lead author of the report, said China's economic success and growing global reach was a factor in forcing the pace of change in business regulation in other large developing countries, including Egypt.

But Djankov said Egypt's motivation was not only competition from China but also regional competition from Dubai, which has attracted large international firms as a business center and cosmopolitan city in the Gulf.

'Egypt not only wants to compete regionally but also globally, and in some sense, as China is moving, not only Egypt, but all the other large emerging economies are competing with that,' he said.

Close on Egypt's heels as a top reformer is Saudi Arabia, which has eliminated layers of bureaucracy that had previously made it one of the toughest places in the world to start a business, the report said.

Djankov said reforms in Egypt and Saudi Arabia were part of broader changes occurring in the Middle East, where governments are having to face rapidly growing populations and unemployment among youth.

'The emergence of Egypt, and more generally, the Middle East is most prominent this year,' he added.

China ranked ninth, below Kenya, on the list of business reformers, but stood out among East Asian countries for passing a new property law and bankruptcy code, the report said.

The report also noted that among emerging economies, India, Indonesia, Turkey and Vietnam had all improved their business regulation.

But it said that Eastern European and former Soviet bloc countries had overtaken East Asian countries when it came to ease of doing business. Several had overtaken Western European economies as pro-business reformers, it added.

In Eastern Europe, the biggest reformers were Croatia, Georgia, Bulgaria and Hungary, while Estonia was the most  business-friendly country of the former socialist bloc.

In Africa, Ghana and Kenya are this years top reformers, with high marks also going to Madagascar, Mozambique, Madagascar and Burkina Faso.

But across the Sub-Saharan region, the report said business reforms are uneven, with six African countries occupying the last six positions in the list of 178 countries judged according to ease of doing business.

In Western Europe, Djankov said Portugal, which holds the EU presidency, stood out as the country which had done the most in improving its business environment, following a change in government in 2005.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, the 'Doing Business' report said business reforms were falling behind, mostly due to delays caused by the many elections in the region in the past year.

However, Colombia was an exception, where elections have not interrupted an aggressive reform agenda to attract business investment, Djankov noted.- Reuters




Tags: Egypt | Saudi | Doing Business |

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