x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

UAE climbs in world ease of business rankings

The country has gained overall but slipped from number two spot in the Middle East, says the World Bank.

The UAE has leapt up the global rankings in a report assessing the easiest places to do business. The World Bank report entitled Doing Business in the Arab World lists the country as the fourth-easiest out of the 20 nations in the Arab world within which to operate a company. Additionally, when ranked alongside the rest of the world, the UAE has risen 22 places, from 68th last year to 46th in the latest report. The survey ranked Saudi Arabia as the number one country in the Arab world and the 16th-easiest country overall in which to do business. The assessment measured a range of factors including ease of starting a business, how simple it is to obtain credit, how cross-border trade operates and how much investors are protected. Bahrain and Qatar took second and third places respectively. In last year's global report the UAE was in second place, however Bahrain and Qatar were not included. The major reform that the UAE has made in the past year, according to the report, was the creation of the credit checking bureau Emcredit, which "allowed better supervision of the debt level of banks and borrowers", it said. However, this reform pales in comparison with the huge strides the Saudi economy has made in the past year, which saw it climb to 16th in the world rankings from last year's 23rd place. According to the report's findings, Saudi authorities have "greatly simplified the process of registering a company; strengthened protection for minority shareholders; computerised the registration of property; and have introduced strict deadlines for bankruptcy procedures". The UAE scored highly in terms of registering property, obtaining credit and trading across borders. However, it scored poorly on its bankruptcy law, which makes it difficult to shut down a business, coming below Djibouti. It also scored low in terms of contract enforcement through the courts system, where it came in below Sudan in terms of effectiveness. Speaking at the launch of the report, Minister of Economy Sultan bin Saeed al Mansouri described how the wealth of the GCC, especially through sovereign wealth funds of the region, would allow countries to weather the current financial storm. However, he said that Arab countries would be affected by the global crisis, but only by "a limited extent". Jesper Kjaer, the general manager of the private enterprise partnership for MENA at the International Finance Corporation, which co-authored the report, said the GCC was performing strongly both in the Arab and wider world in terms of providing easy places of business. "There is a constant focus on smarter regulation in the GCC, and in the UAE the whole business model is based around attracting investment." Mr Kjaer added that the general consensus was that the GCC would be one of the regions least affected by the global crisis because of its high liquidity and oil revenues, and that there was likely to be increased focus on reform in the region as countries battled for a smaller pot of overseas investment. The countries that will be most affected by the crisis will be export-heavy poor countries, he added. afoxwell@thenational.ae