On 31 October, the World Bank released the 2019 edition of Doing Business, its annual report that investigates regulations that enhance or hinder business in 190 countries. The analysed rules cover 11 areas that affect the life of a business:
- Dealing with construction permits
- Getting electricity and credit
- Registering property
- Protecting minority investors
- Paying taxes
- Trading across borders
- Enforcing contracts
- Resolving insolvency
- Labour market regulation
Analysis of these areas is used to develop an ease of doing business (EDB) score that serves as a basis for ranking economies according to their business environment. The score shows a country’s absolute position with respect to regulatory best practices, and its ranking compared with the rankings of other economies surveyed.
The stated goal of the report is to provide objective data for governments to use when designing sound business policies. According to the World Bank, economic activity benefits from the existence of clear and consistent rules that are effective in promoting growth and development. The economies that rank highest in the survey are those with business regulations that are consistently well designed, or with regulatory environments that have thrived, thanks to years of comprehensive reform.
The top-ranked countries exemplify a business-friendly environment, and it is efficiency and quality of regulation that matter most.
Overall, the UK ranks ninth in the EDB index, the third-highest place among European economies. It comes behind Denmark and Norway, and is one spot behind the United States.
Japan was in 39th place, although the aggregate figure masks the country’s top position in terms of resolving insolvency—a metric that evaluates the time, cost and outcome of insolvency proceedings, together with the strength of the legal framework for liquidation and reorganisation proceedings.
To maintain their ranking, countries need to remain constantly vigilant and alert. For Japan, there is significant upside potential, as the country works to improve its attractiveness as a destination for inward investment. In the case of the UK, it will be interesting to see how the country fares in next year’s survey, in the wake of ongoing Brexit negotiations.
The text of the UK Withdrawal Agreement, and the Political Declaration on the UK’s future relationship with the European Union, was agreed to by the UK and European Commission on 25 November. A vote in the British Parliament is pending this month on whether to approve the Withdrawal Agreement, and businesses will be looking forward to additional clarity on the environment in which they will find it necessary to operate.
With the situation changing rapidly, impacted businesses may find it useful to stay abreast of the publicly available analyses on the expected impact of Brexit on different industries, such as those prepared and updated by the British Chambers of Commerce and the Confederation of British Industry. Links to this material can be found on the BCCJ’s website.
The need to cope with change is a constant challenge for businesses and their managers. As BCCJ members reflect on 2018, I hope they will conclude that they navigated their journey well, and that they can take a positive approach to tackling the obstacles—and inevitable opportunities—that 2019 will bring.