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Azerbaijan leads as world’s pro-business reformer

Azerbaijan this year leads the World Bank’s top 10 list of countries that simplified their business regulations, according to the annual “Doing Business” report released on Tuesday by the World Bank. Hungary moves up to 41st spot in Doing Business 2009 ranking.

Albania is runner-up, followed by Kyrgyz Republic and Belarus, making Eastern Europe and Central Asia leading regions in the world when it comes to business reforms. Overall, Singapore retains its No. 1 global ranking as the best country in the world to do business in out of 181 countries listed, followed by New Zealand, the United States, Hong Kong, Denmark, Britain, Ireland, Canada and Australia. Bahrain and Mauritius join the ranks of the top 25 this year.

With 239 pro-business reforms conducted in 113 economies, Penelope Brook, co-author of the report, said this year marks the most changes in business regulations seen since the first “Doing Business” report was published in 2003. “Economies worldwide are increasingly committed to their agendas for business-friendly reforms,” said Brook. “We find newcomers looking to earlier reformers of businesses regulations.”

The International Finance Corp report ranks economies based on 10 indicators which looks at how government bureaucracy can affect and, often limit, business environments. When it came to simplifying business regulations, Azerbaijan went further than any other economy and catapulted 64 places in the global rankings to 33, the biggest jump ever. The report said Azerbaijan undertook reforms in seven of the 10 areas studied by the report, including making it easier to start a business, contract enforcement and property registration, easing tax administration burdens and employment restrictions, and strengthening investor protections and credit information.

In Africa, there were more reforms than in any previous year, with three countries -- Senegal, Burkina Faso and Botswana -- making it on the top 10 list of reformers. Mauritius, however, is the most business-friendly African country and joins the top 25 countries in the global rankings. But seven African countries were also the worst performers, with the Democratic Republic of Congo last in the ranking of 181 countries, followed by the Central AfricaRepublic, Guinea Bissau and Republic of Congo.

Last year’s winner, Egypt, stays in the list of top 10 reformers and advanced 11 places in the global rankings, with Yemen the most substantial reformer when it comes to starting a business. Other regional leaders include Saudi Arabia and Tunisia, which each made it easier to do business in four areas.

Colombia is global leader in reforming business regulations for the second year in a row and is the top reformer in Latin America. The Dominican Republic joins the top 10 list of reformers for the first time this year, while the Bahamas makes its debut at 55 in the global rankings. Venezuela ranks 174 in the global rankings, eighth from last, reflecting a campaign by its socialist President Hugo Chavez to nationalize key industries.

Among large emerging market economies, China led the way when it came to business reforms by making it easier to access credit, pay taxes and enforce contracts. South Africa made it easier to start a business and pay taxes, while Brazil and India eased trade processes. (Reuters)


HUNGARY

Hungary slipped to 66th place in the 2007 report because of government austerity measures introduced in 2006, but it jumped to 45th place in the 2008 report. However, adjusting for new additions to the list, Hungary was in 50th place on the 2008 list, meaning it really advanced nine places on the 2009 list. Hungary was ahead of Slovenia (54th) on the list, as well as the Czech Republic (75th) and Poland (76th).

Ahead of it were Slovakia (36th), Lithuania (28th) and Estonia (22nd). At the top of the list were Singapore, New Zealand and the US. The report ranked Hungary eighth in terms of the ease of setting up a business and fifth in an evaluation of reforms of the process of registering property. The report criticized the lengthy and complicated process of obtaining building permits, but praised their low cost. (MTI-Econews)