A record 131 economies around the globe reformed business regulation in 2008/09, according to the IFC-World Bank Doing Business 2010 report. That is more than 70 percent of the 183 economies covered by the report - the largest share in any year since the annual report was first published in 2004. And this progress came against the backdrop of a global economic crisis.
Doing Business 2010: Reforming through Difficult Times recorded 287 reforms between June 2008 and May 2009, up 20 percent from the previous year. Reformers around the world focused on making it easier to start and operate businesses, strengthening property rights, and improving commercial dispute resolution and bankruptcy procedures.
"Business regulation can affect how well small and midsize firms cope with the crisis and seize opportunities when recovery begins," said Penelope Brook, Acting Vice President for Financial and Private Sector Development for the World Bank Group. "The quality of business regulation helps determine how easy it is to reorganize troubled firms to help them survive difficult times, to rebuild when demand rebounds, and to get new businesses started."
Singapore, a consistent reformer, is the top-ranked economy on the ease of doing business for the fourth year in a row, with New Zealand as runner-up. But most of the action occurred in developing economies. Two-thirds of the reforms recorded in the report were in low- and lower-middle-income economies. For the first time a Sub-Saharan African economy, Rwanda, is the world's top reformer of business regulation, making it easier to start businesses, register property, protect investors, trade across borders, and access credit.
Reformers were particularly active in Eastern Europe and Central Asia and the Middle East and North Africa. This year, there were 4 new reformers among the top 10: Liberia, the United Arab Emirates, Tajikistan and Moldova. Others include Rwanda, Egypt, Belarus, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the Kyrgyz Republic, and Colombia. Colombia and Egypt have been top global reformers in four of the past seven years.
Doing Business analyzes regulations that apply to an economy's businesses during their life cycles, including start-up and operations, trading across borders, paying taxes, and closing a business. Doing Business does not measure all aspects of the business environment that matter to firms and investors. For example, it does not measure security, macroeconomic stability, corruption, skill level, or the strength of financial systems.