SINGAPORE - For the seventh year running, Singapore has come out in pole position in a ranking of the 185 economies in the area of business-friendliness.
But the Doing Business report by the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) released yesterday noted that the improvements made to Singapore's regulatory environment have been minimal each year, and that the next few economies in the rankings have been closing the gap.
Singapore improved by only one per cent from last year; the score for second-placed Hong Kong, on the other hand, went up 5 per cent, said Maya Choueiri, operations analyst at the World Bank and a co-author of the report.
Although she acknowledged that it would be difficult for Singapore to make significant improvements, she suggested that it could explore enhancements in the area of property registration.
The Doing Business report assessed the economies in 11 areas of business regulation, among them, the ease of starting a business, getting construction permits, electricity and credit, paying taxes, enforcing contracts and employing workers.
It focused particularly on regulations relevant to the life cycle of a small to medium-sized domestic business in the most populous city in each country.
The report found that 23 economies in East Asia and the Pacific have made their regulatory environments more business-friendly since 2005, with nearly half having done so in the last year, making Singapore's position at the top less certain in the long term.
Karim Belayachi, the report's co-author and private- sector development specialist at the World Bank, said that the more than 2,000 regulatory reforms made in 180 out of the 185 countries since 2005 have enabled other countries to come within nipping distance of Singapore's heels.
He said, however, that many of these countries still look to Singapore as a benchmark and inspiration for their own progress.
Referring to this "convergence of regulatory practices", he noted, for example, that in 2005, there were only 40 countries - mostly high-income OECD economies - where one could register a business in under 20 days; today, more than 100 countries have made it possible to do so.