Morocco showed the biggest improvement as a place to do business this year, leading a surge of business-friendly reforms in Africa and Eastern Europe, a World Bank study showed.
The bank’s annual “Doing Business” report again ranked Singapore as the world’s easiest place to do business, followed by Hong Kong, New Zealand, the United States and Denmark.
But South Korea and Iceland broke into the coveted top 10 rankings, edging out Sweden and Saudi Arabia, Reuters reports.
The ninth annual World Bank report tracks regulatory changes in 183 countries for businesses throughout their life cycle — from ease of business start-ups and getting credit to protecting investors and dealing with insolvency.
A new category introduced this year measures the ease or difficulty businesses face in getting an electricity connection.
“This is one of the most fundamental needs for any small business,” said Neil Gregory, World Bank deputy director of indicators and analysis, who helped lead the study.
“In some countries it takes weeks or even months just to get electricity”.
In the year to June 2011, “Doing Business” found that 125 economies implemented 245 reforms to make it easier to do business — an increase of 13 percent over the previous year.
In low- and lower-middle income countries, a greater share of these changes were aimed at strengthening courts, insolvency regimes and investor protections than in prior years.
Morocco’s ranking improved 21 places from last year’s survey to 94th on the list. Moldova improved 18 places, Macedonia 12 places and the West African island of Sao Tome and Principe 11 places. Latvia and Cape Verde each rose 10 spots.
South Korea moved from 15th to 8th, with three major reforms noted by the survey — creating an online business startup system, consolidating labor taxes and creating an electronic system for filing commercial lawsuits.
Morocco opened a one-stop shop for construction permits, allowed minority, enhanced electronic tax filing and strengthened investor protections by allowing minority shareholders to obtain non-confidential corporate documents during trials.
“At a time when persistent unemployment and the need for job creation are in the headlines, governments around the world continue to seek ways to improve the regulatory climate for domestic business,” said Augusto Lopez-Claros, World Bank Group director of global indicators and analysis.
“Small and medium businesses that benefit most from these improvements are the key engines for job creation in many parts of the world,” he added.
The report noted that countries with the highest rankings, which tend to be more advanced countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, all have efficient regulatory processes, efficient court systems that protect property and investor rights and credit bureaus and collateral registries that facilitate lending.
With the survey now in its ninth year, more countries are using it as a benchmark for improvements that can help them attract investment, said Dahlia Khalifa, World Bank global indicators and analysis adviser.
“This is based on actual facts, so it can be a catalyst for change. If there are problems found, the policymakers can work to fix them,” she added.
A new measure in this year’s report shows that over the past six years, 94 percent of 174 economies have made their regulatory environment more business-friendly and have moved closer to the ranking leaders.
One area that showed particular improvement in the latest survey was dealing with insolvencies, with 29 economies implementing reforms that made it easier to deal with a failing business, up from 16 the previous year.
Most of these were in wealthier countries or in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the survey found. The World Bank said effective insolvency systems can reduce the cost of debt, boost access to credit and speed recoveries from recessions.