x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 22 November 2017

Saudi Arabia top reformer in the GCC last year, World Bank says

The biggest Arab economy has implemented a total of six reforms including enhancing protection for minority investors 

Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter, is undertaking a slew of reforms as part of Vision 2030, an economic overhaul plan aimed at lowering the kingdom's dependence on oil income. Faisal Al Nasser / Reuters
Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter, is undertaking a slew of reforms as part of Vision 2030, an economic overhaul plan aimed at lowering the kingdom's dependence on oil income. Faisal Al Nasser / Reuters

Saudi Arabia was the top reformer among the six-member economic bloc of GCC, implementing six reforms in the past year as Opec's biggest oil exporter continues to transform its economy and opens the kingdom up for foreign investments.

Improving efficiency of the land administration system and strengthening minority investor protections, are among the reforms that helped the Arab world's biggest economy earn the accolade, World Bank said.

The UAE was the second-best reformer and was overall the highest-ranked Arabian Gulf state in terms of ease of doing business, moving up five places to 21st spot out of 190 countries assessed by the Washington-based lender said in its 'Doing Business 2018' report. Kuwait and Qatar adopted two reforms each, while Oman implemented one.

“With their commitment to develop the private sector, the GCC states have done much to improve the business climate for private enterprises,” Nadir Mohammed, the director for GCC countries at the World Bank said. “We look forward to a continuation of efforts to embrace the fair, transparent and efficient regulatory practices that the Doing Business report champions,”

The GCC states, which account for about a third of world's proven oil reserves, have implemented 103 reforms in total the past 15 years, representing more than a third of all reformative moves carried out in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region, the report said. The UAE has adopted 33 reforms over that time period, the highest number in the Gulf, followed by Saudi Arabia with 30 reforms in the past decade-and-a-half.

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Saudi Arabia has emerged among the top 20 reformers in the world and the second-best among high-income and G20 countries, according to the improvement in distance to frontier – a measure that shows the distance of each economy to the “frontier”, which represents the best performance observed for each of the indicators across all economies in the Doing Business.

Reforms in the kingdom included improving the efficiency of the land administration system to streamline the property registration process and making it easier to pay taxes. The country enhanced protection of minority investors, which catapulted it to number 10 globally in that category, sending “a strong signal to investors interested to invest in the kingdom,” the report said.

Saudi Arabia is undertaking a slew of reforms as part of Vision 2030, an economic overhaul plan aimed at cutting its dependence on sale of hydrocarbons for revenues.

Reforms in the UAE included strengthening quality control in the construction sector, and improving access to credit information by providing consumer credit scores to banks and financial institutions. The UAE’s Al Etihad Credit Bureau launched a credit scoring system in April.

The UAE is a global leader in the area of obtaining an electricity connection, which takes 10 days, compared to the global average of 92 days and the OECD high-income average of 78 days, the report noted.

The fourth reform in the UAE, the second-biggest economy in the region, addressed the insolvency issues after the approval of the bankruptcy law in 2016 .

Globally, India was among the top-10 reformers, implementing eight reforms. It also jumped to 100th place in terms of ease of doing business in this year’s report from the 130th spot . Other reformers include Brunei Darussalam and Thailand.