MOSCOW, Oct 31 (Reuters) - Doing business in Russia became easier again over the past year, but the country needs to deal better with construction permits and improve foreign trade, the World Bank said on Tuesday.
Russia advanced to 35th out of 190 countries in the World Bank's 2018 business rankings, from 40th in 2017.
"This compares with the 120th position just six years ago," said Andras Horvai, World Bank country director and resident representative for the Russian Federation.
"There has been a demonstration of a sustained and clear commitment in Russia to improve the business climate for domestic small and medium enterprises. The reform efforts have been effectively led and coordinated by the Ministry of Economic Development," Horvai said.
The Doing Business study focuses on regulation that affects small and medium-size enterprises across several areas. These include starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, protecting minority investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts, and others.
A better ranking in the Doing Business rating is a matter of prestige for Russia, which is hobbled by Western sanctions that were imposed after its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
Emerging from a full-blown crisis caused by a drop in prices for oil, its key export, and the economic sanctions, Russia is striving to show the world it became stronger after living through two consecutive years of economic contraction.
Economy Minister Maxim Oreshkin said Russia has entered the zone of increased competition where it is harder to climb higher than in the range to 50th from 100th place in the global ranking.
"Now our neighbours and the closest competitors in the rating are France, Holland, Switzerland and Japan," Oreshkin said.
Speaking to reporters, Oreshkin said Moscow still sticks to an ambitious target of getting on the list of 20 best countries for doing business, something that President Vladimir Putin ordered in his presidential decrees from 2012.
In an annual report, the World Bank noted that Russia is doing well when it comes to providing access to electricity and registering property. Russia also became a better place for starting a new business.
But Russia still has room to improve. "The areas where additional efforts would bring major benefits for Russia's businesses include Dealing with Construction Permits and Trading Across Borders," the World Bank said. (Additional reporting by Darya Korsunskaya; Editing by Larry King)