World Bank ranks the UAE 21st globally as reforms continue to cut red tape for businesses
The UAE has been named as the Middle East's top country for doing business in the latest ranking published by the World Bank.
The study said that the UAE undertook four reforms in the past 12 months to cut red tape for businesses, including strengthening construction quality control and reducing the time to obtain a building permit.
It added that over the 15 years of the World Bank's report, which monitors the ease of doing business for small and medium enterprises around the world, the UAE has undertaken the largest number of reforms in the region with 33.
Elsewhere in the Gulf region, Bahrain was ranked 66th, Oman 71st, Qatar 83rd, Saudi 92nd, and Kuwait 96th.
The World Bank said economies in the Middle East and North Africa region maintained a steady pace of business reforms in the past year.
Doing Business 2018: Reforming to Create Jobs found that 13 of the region’s 20 economies implemented a total of 29 business reforms, bringing to a total of 292 the number of reforms implemented in the region in the past 15 years.
As a result, it takes 17 days on average to start a business in the region, compared to 43 days in 2003. However, the region lags on gender-related issues, with 14 economies imposing additional barriers for women entrepreneurs, the report said.
It added that Saudi Arabia, the region’s largest economy which is undertaking its biggest raft of economic reforms as it looks to cut its dependency on oil, undertook six reforms in the past year.
These included improving the efficiency of the land administration system to streamline the property registration process. As a result, Saudi Arabia has an efficient land registry and it takes only 1.5 days to transfer property, at no cost.
Saudi Arabia also strengthened minority investor protections by increasing shareholder rights and their role in major decisions, clarifying ownership and control structures, requiring greater corporate transparency and regulating the disclosure of transactions with interested parties.
Across the region, seven reforms were carried out to improve access to credit, mostly aimed at strengthening credit information.
Another Doing Business area in which multiple reforms were carried out in the past year was Starting a Business. Highlights of the six reforms carried out in this area included the establishment of a one-stop shop and an improved process of registering a business online in Kuwait.
“While the region continues to face many daunting challenges, it is particularly reassuring to see that business reforms are being carried out in some of the most difficult environments,” said Santiago Croci Downes, program manager of the Doing Business Unit.
The Middle East and North Africa region performed well in the areas of Dealing with Construction Permits, Getting Electricity, Registering Property and Paying Taxes.
The region lags in the areas of Getting Credit, despite the multiple reforms of the past year, Trading Across Borders and Resolving Insolvency, the report added.
Globally, New Zealand, Singapore and Denmark retained their first, second and third spots, respectively, followed by Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, China, United States, United Kingdom, Norway, Georgia and Sweden.