Saudi Arabia is the best country in the Middle East for doing business, according to a new study published by the World Bank.
The Gulf kingdom, the world’s largest oil producer, was ranked 22nd globally in the ‘Doing Business 2013’ report, ahead of neighbour the UAE which placed 26th. Elsewhere in the GCC, Qatar came 40th, Bahrain 42nd, Oman 47th and Kuwait 82nd.
On a global basis the report was topped by Singapore, followed by Hong Kong and New Zealand in second and third places, respectively.
Saudi Arabia scored highly in terms of taxation (3rd in the world), investor protection (19th), property registration and access to electricity (both 12th). The kingdom performed poorly when it comes to starting a business (78th globally), enforcing contracts (124th) and resolving insolvency (107th).
According to the International Monetary Fund the Saudi economy is forecast to grow by 6 percent this year.
The study, which polled the opinions of thousands of lawyers, government officials and consultants, praised reforms made by Middle East countries in the past year aimed at easing restrictions on doing business. It found that 47 percent of economies in the region had implemented such reforms in the past year, despite efforts in this space being hampered by the effect of the Arab Spring unrest.
Examples of regional business reform cited by the report included the UAE’s streamlining of start-up requirements, the implementation of an online system to file and pay taxes, and a reduction in the time required to set up an electricity connection.
The World Bank also lauded Oman’s move to guarantee the rights of borrowers to inspect their personal credit data.
“The changes in the region suggest a renewed opportunity for governments to invest in governance structures and increase transparency in parallel with efforts to improve the business regulatory environment,” said Augusto Lopez-Claros, director, global indicators and analysis, World Bank Group, in a statement.
“Moving to a system of more transparent, sensible, and business-friendly rules will go a long way toward creating the conditions for more equitable economic growth and a faster pace of job creation,” he added.
Worldwide, the Central African Republic was ranked the worst country in the world for doing business.