Monday, September 15, 2008

Singapore still tops for business (A boost for MEC!)

It retains No. 1 World Bank ranking for third year, thanks to key reforms

IT’S a hat-trick.

For the third year running, Singapore has been ranked as the world’s easiest place to do business by the World Bank.

Around the globe, a record 239 reforms were introduced in 113 economies in the last year.

But it was two important reforms - shortening the time periods needed to start a business and to obtain a construction permit - that kept Singapore narrowly above New Zealand in the World Bank’s latest Doing Business rankings.

Making full use of the Internet was the key to Singapore’s success. An online one-stop shop helped slash the time it takes to issue a construction permit from 102 days to just 38 days.

Singapore also simplified the online process for starting a business - slicing a day off the already rapid procedure. It now takes only four days and $365 to start up a business here.

The news was welcomed by Singapore’s trade associations, the Singapore Business Federation and the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises. They noted that easing regulations for firms had certainly helped to offset the rising costs of doing business.

Programme manager for the report Sylvia Solf said enforcing contracts was one area in which Singapore could improve. It takes one month more than it did the previous year to enforce a contract, and the cost of taking a case to court is about a quarter of the claim value.

Ms Solf said the top 10 economies remained almost unchanged - a reflection of the continuous commitment of richer nations to simplify regulations. Any country that stops reforming will lose its position in the competition, she said.

The annual report, now in its sixth year, is put up by the World Bank and its private lending arm, the International Finance Corp (IFC). It ranks 181 economies according to 10 indicators of business regulation - from starting a business to paying taxes and closing a business.

The aim is to show how simplifying procedures encourages investment, creates jobs and spurs growth. The top 10 are all high-income economies.

East Asia and the Pacific had the greatest momentum of reform among all the regions with 63 reforms made in the past year, up from 46 the year before, the report noted. Leading the charge was Thailand, which recorded four big improvements to climb from 19th to 13th place.

Ms Dahlia Khalifa, a co-author of the report, said that countries recognised the need for regulatory reform to make them more competitive and are ‘clearly committed to reform agendas’.

Overall, Azerbaijan was deemed the top reformer, after upgrading in seven areas. It leapt 64 places from 97 to 33. The Central Asian and Eastern European region recorded the most number of reforms in the world, with 26 of the 28 countries implementing a total of 69 reforms.

World Bank/IFC vice-president for financial and private sector development Michael Klein said that having ‘good rules is a better basis for healthy business than ‘who you know’.’

Source : Straits Times - 11 Sep 2008

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