The ABCs of Doing Business

Every year when the World Bank publishes its report on the "ease of doing business" in 190 economies, countries that fall in the ranking are quick to cry foul or complain about methodological errors. But governments make a much bigger mistake when they view the Doing Business index as a measure of overall wellbeing.

NEW YORK – The World Bank’s annual Doing Business (DB) report is probably its most-cited publication. It is also the Bank’s most contentious, and with the release of Doing Business 2018 last October, the controversy surrounding the report has reached new heights, with some critics accusing it of obfuscation, data rigging, and political manipulation.

I was closely involved with the DB report from 2012 to 2016, so I had to restrain myself from jumping into the debate on the topic. But now, a review of the DB index and annual report seems worthwhile.

I first became familiar with the DB report when I was an adviser to the Indian government and would look to it for ideas about how to cut India’s notoriously cumbersome bureaucratic red tape. So, when I moved to the World Bank and learned that I would be overseeing the DB team, it was like a regular restaurant patron suddenly being asked to supervise the kitchen. The upshot was that I learned all that went on behind the scenes. And although I had some conceptual disagreements, I was impressed by the integrity of the process.

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