Asia-Pacific News

Singapore easiest place to do business for 9th year

Singapore skyline
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The wealthy island nation of Singapore topped the World Bank's ease of doing business rankings for the ninth consecutive year, according to the Doing Business 2015: Going Beyond Efficiency' report, released Wednesday.

New Zealand, Hong Kong, Denmark and South Korea, rounded out the top five spots, respectively.

The annual report ranked 189 countries on the based on 10 criteria, such as dealing with construction permits, getting set up with electricity or paying taxes.

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Entrepreneurs in Singapore need just 2.5 days to open a new business, 26 days to obtain a construction permit, 31 days to get set up with electricity and 4.5 days to register a property.

"Interestingly, while Singapore maintained pole position, its score actually slipped a smidgen from 88.30 for 2014 to 88.27 in 2015, whereas the other top 5 ranked countries saw improvements to their scoring," said Selena Ling, head of treasury research & strategy at OCBC Bank.

Ling highlighted that Singapore's scoring for the Getting Credit category did not change from 2014 to 2015, which likely means other countries have improved faster and are catching up in their scoring for this category.

"While the accolade suggests that Singapore will keep its competitive edge, the country will need to brace itself for slower growth next year being one of the most open and trade-oriented economies," added Ryan Huang, market Strategist at IG in a note.

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Poor performers

The larger emerging markets did not do very well: China ranked 90th, while Brazil ranked 120th and India at 142nd, below the troubled economies of Russia and Greece, which ranked 62nd and 61st respectively.

Eritrea, where it takes an average of 84 days to start up a new business, ranked last followed by Libya (188th), and the Central African Republic (187th).

However, the compilers of the rankings noted that their analysis uses a narrow spectrum of parameters and does not measure all aspects of the business environment that matter to firms and investors.

The quality of fiscal management and other aspects of macro-economic stability like the levels of skills in the labor force or the resilience of a country's financial system, are not considered.

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Improvements in East Asia

East Asia and the Pacific saw a marked improvement in business conditions over the past year, according to Rita Ramalho, lead author of the 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."

In Vietnam, ranked 78th, a reduction in the corporate tax rate to 22 percent from 25 percent this year gave start-ups a boost, while China enhanced its electronic filing and payment system and made business incorporation less expensive.

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In Mongolia - one of the world's fastest expanding economies - local businesses saw the average time for tax compliance fall to 148 hours from 192 hours over the course of 2013, a shorter time than Austria, for example. It ranked 72nd.