After ten years at the top Singapore has been pushed out of top place as the easiest place to do business by upstart New Zealand, according to a new World Bank study “Doing Business 2017: Equal Opportunity for All”.

According to the study, the world’s top 10 improvers, based on reforms undertaken, are Brunei, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Belarus, Indonesia, Serbia, Georgia, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Bahrain.

The report gave Singapore an overall score of 85.05 while New Zealand scored 87.01 points, owing to its move to ease tax payments by removing its cheque levy. In removing obstacles to start up a business, the World Bank praised Singapore for enhancing its electronic one-stop shop to make the process of obtaining approvals from different authorities easier.

The study acknowledged Singapore as one of the first economies to introduce an electronic system for public administration. The city state made internal processes of its tax administration more efficient by freeing staff from unproductive bureaucratic tasks when the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore developed an integrated and computerized system. The World Bank said as a result, the time needed to issue tax assessments decreased from 12-18 months to 3-5 months between 1992 and 2000. “Singapore continues to improve its tax compliance system even though it is among the best performers on the paying taxes indicators,” the study said, adding the online system underwent further upgrades in 2015, allowing for fewer delays in filing returns for corporate income tax and value added tax.

In the report, countries are ranked based on 11 indicators such as ease of starting a business, registering property, obtaining credit, dealing with construction permits, and getting electricity, among others.

Hong Kong was ranked fourth in the report, up from last year’s fifth place, while China moved up to 78th from last year’s 84th place. The score for Hong Kong has risen from 83.67 last year to 84.21 this year, indicating improvement in our overall business environment.

In Hong Kong it takes one and a half days to start a business, while in low-ranked Venezuela the same process takes 230 days.

The report found that Hong Kong’s government had made setting up and running a business less costly last year by reducing the business registration fee and had cut red tape for companies wanting to apply for new electricity accounts.

Hong Kong led the pack when it came to paying taxes, with the least number of payment installments per year, alongside Saudi Arabia.

The report found innovation was Hong Kong’s weakest area. “The challenge for Hong Kong is to evolve from one of the world’s foremost financial hubs to become an innovative powerhouse,” it said.

Endnotes

1. Finnews.asia: “Singapore Slips in Rankings”, 2016, <http://www.finews.asia/finance/23260-world-bank-report-business-singapore-hong-kong-new-zealand>;

2. Asian Correspondent: “Singapore loses title as world’s easiest place to do business but stays top in Asia”, 2016, <https://asiancorrespondent.com/2016/10/world-bank-singapore-loses-title-worlds-easiest-place-business-stays-top-asia/>;

3. The Straits Times: “Singapore loses top spot to New Zealand in World Bank’s ranking of easiest place to do business”, 2016, <http://www.straitstimes.com/business/economy/singapore-loses-top-spot-to-new-zealand-in-world-banks-ranking-of-easiest-place-to>;

4. Singapore Business Review: “Singapore loses mantle as world’s easiest place to do business: World Bank”, 2016, <http://sbr.com.sg/economy/in-focus/singapore-loses-mantle-worlds-easiest-place-do-business-world-bank>;

5. Today: “Singapore 2nd easiest place in the world to do business: World Bank”, 2016, <http://www.todayonline. com/singapore/singapore-2nd-easiest-place-world-do-business-world-bank>;

6. South China Morning Post: “Hong Kong improves in World Bank’s ‘doing business’ survey but New Zealand takes top spot”, Julia Hollingworth, 2016, <http://www.scmp.com/business/companies/article/2040310/hong-kong-improves-world-banks-doing-business-survey-new-zealand>.

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