A new World Bank Group report finds that Singapore continues to provide the world’s most business-friendly regulatory environment. Also among the top 10 economies in the ease of doing business ranking are New Zealand; Hong Kong SAR, China; the Republic of Korea; and Australia.
Hong Kong’s distance-to-frontier score is 84.97, up from 84.45 last year. In comparison, Singapore’s score this year is 88.27, down from 88.30 last year, and New Zealand’s is 86.91, up from 86.37 last year.
The report finds that between June 2013 and June 2014 Hong Kong strengthened minority investor protection by requiring directors to provide more detailed disclosure of conflicts of interest to other board members.
But the territory made starting a business more difficult by increasing the registration fee.
“Hong Kong performs well on protecting minority investors and trading across borders, ranking second in the world in these areas. The city is also the easiest place in the world when it comes to dealing with construction permits,” said Wendy Werner, the World Bank Group’s Trade and Competitiveness Manager in East Asia and the Pacific.
“A leading economy like Hong Kong should continue to introduce regulatory reforms to further improve its world-class investment climate.”
The report finds that budding local entrepreneurs in East Asia and the Pacific continue to see improvements in the business environment, as the region’s economies implemented 24 regulatory reforms.
Reform count excludes Australia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, and New Zealand, which are classified as OECD high-income economies in the past year alone.
Indonesia improved prospects for small enterprises by implementing three regulatory reforms in 2013/14 in areas measured by the report. Across cities, the approval process for business incorporation was streamlined and labor taxes were reduced. In Jakarta, the process for getting an electricity connection was speeded up by eliminating the need to obtain multiple certificates.
The data show that many economies in the region made it easier for businesses to pay taxes in the past year.
Vietnam reduced the corporate income tax rate. China enhanced its electronic filing and payment system—while also making business incorporation less expensive. Mongolia introduced a new electronic payment system.
Such reforms are saving entrepreneurs valuable time. In Mongolia, for example, local businesses saw the average time for tax compliance fall from 192 hours a year in 2013 to 148 hours—less than in Austria.
“Since 2005, the East Asia and the Pacific region has narrowed the gap with global good practices,” said Rita Ramalho, lead author of the World Bank Group’s Doing Business report. “Consistent regulatory reforms have improved the ease of doing business in the region in the past decade, and contributed to more business opportunities for local entrepreneurs.”