USCIB and its global partners, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and International Organization of Employers (IOE), are spearheading business advocacy to maintain the integrity and rigor of the World Bank’s annual “Doing Business” report and ranking.
In a response to criticism from China and other countries, the new president of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, appointed an independent panel of outside experts to review the Doing Business reports, which many in the business community view as a useful measuring tool for understanding the comparative attractiveness of a country’s business and investment climate.
The Doing Business reports currently provide objective measures and rankings of business regulations for local firms in 185 economies and selected cities around the world. In addition, the reports can serve an important policy function by providing leverage for economic reforms in nations where excessive regulation and hidden costs impede the process of starting and running a business.
China in particular has criticized what it says are the report’s “unfair” rankings. As reported in the Financial Times, China ranked 91st out of 185 economies in the most recent Doing Business report, with especially low scores for its construction bureaucracy and tax system.
The panel review is being conducted amid opposition to the report series from a coalition of NGOs, academics, labor unions, and large borrower countries. Using an open consultation process, the expert panel is soliciting comments and will use them as inputs into the decision-making process for the reports. In response, USCIB is leading an effort within the business community to emphasize the value of the reports as an unbiased and reliable source of information on investment, economic development, job creation, and market conditions in countries around the world.
Hearing for stakeholders
On April 18, ICC Secretary General Jean-Guy Carrier delivered comments directly to the independent panel, underscoring the important contribution of the reports to stakeholders spanning business and government entities. USCIB was represented at the hearing by Shaun Donnelly, vice president for investment and financial services, who afterward participated in a Q&A session with panel members. For its part, the IOE submitted comments to the panel and mobilized its worldwide networks of national employers’ bodies to do the same.
The following day, USCIB led a group of business and think-tank representatives in an open discussion session with the panel. According to Donnelly, USCIB is “speaking up aggressively on the value of a rigorous annual Doing Business Report, focused on real-world metrics of direct relevance to local and international business as they make investment and hiring decisions.”
Adam Greene, USCIB’s vice president for labor and corporate responsibility, was critical of the World Bank’s process in setting up the independent panel, noting that the panel had no business representatives even though its original terms of reference called for this. He called the consultation process “haphazard and not well communicated.”
Greene submitted a response to four questions solicited for the review process, covering topics such as the value, relevance, impartiality, effectiveness, and decision-making impact of the reports, as well as how they could be improved. His responses underscored that “the value of the report is that it speaks to the relationship between economic development, regulation, and report creation, and suggests ways to reduce the informal economy, where workers have no protections.”
He also noted that the Doing Business project addresses precisely the types of issues that the private sector believes must be included in the UN’s post-2015 development agenda, i.e., fostering a conducive environment for private enterprise and growth that can raise living standards and provide the resources to tackle urgent societal problems. “The fact that a number of countries are seeking to undermine that process indicates that some states aren’t very interested in taking serious steps to foster good governance or economic growth.”
The panel’s final report is expected within the next two weeks.