UAE aims to top World Bank's ease of doing business list in 2021

The Gulf nation currently ranks 16th in the global ease of doing business report, leading the Mena region

Dubai skyline seen from Deyaar properties on Business Bay.
(Photo: Reem Mohammed/The National)

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In a bid to boost competitiveness, the UAE is working on a series of reforms to meet its target of topping the World Bank’s annual ease of doing business ranking in 2021, moving up from the 16th position it currently holds.

New Zealand is currently the easiest place to do business.

The government is taking measures to improve legislation, procedures as well as cost and time of doing business to further boost operating conditions for the private sector, Abdulla Lootah, general director of Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority (FCSA) said at a press conference on Sunday.

"There are so many things that need to be done," said Mr Lootah. "We need to maintain that fire and not rest."

The Arab world's second biggest economy is already implementing an array of reforms aimed at improving the ease of doing business, attracting foreign investors, creating jobs and diversifying its economy away from oil. The UAE has allowed a 100 per cent foreign ownership of companies in 13 sectors from manufacturing to renewable energy. It also eased visa restrictions, provided incentives for small and medium enterprises and introduced a new insolvency law to help UAE residents clear bad debts.

In the 16th place, the UAE has an ease of doing business score of 80.9 out of 100 and is the strongest performer overall in the Middle East and North Africa region, according to the World Bank's Doing Business 2020 report released in October.

The top five countries to do business globally are New Zealand in first place with a score of 86.8, followed by Singapore, Hong Kong, Denmark and South Korea.

"If New Zealand can do it, we can do it," Mr Lootah said.

The government official said the target to jump to the top spot, which was set in 2010, is achievable within the time frame and that all stakeholders involved are intensifying efforts to meet that goal.

There is competition with many other countries vying for the No 1 spot, Cemile Hacibeyoglu, senior private sector specialist at the World Bank Group, said during the conference, noting that the UAE is the highest ranked economy in the region.

The Doing Business report, which began in 2003, covers regulations affecting 10 areas of the business life cycle which are, starting a business, dealing with construction permits, connecting electricity, registering property, securing credit, protecting minority investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts and resolving insolvency.

When asked about the World Bank's recommendations to the UAE to help drive up its position further, Ms Hacibeyoglu said the information is still under process but that the country generally performs well in categories such as construction permits and connecting electricity.

For the first time in May, the UAE was ranked among the top five competitive economies out of 63 countries ranked by the IMD World Competitiveness Rankings.

The UAE also maintained its top spot for the fourth year as the most competitive economy in Mena, according to the World Economic Forum. Globally, the country jumped two places to rank 25th out of 140 countries in the 2019 Global Competitiveness Report published annually by the organisation.

On December 10 to 13, Dubai will host the World Bank's third Doing Business Technical Deep Dive, a global meeting of experts to discuss reforms suggested by the Washington-based lender in its Doing Business report.

The idea is to share knowledge, inspiration, good practises, lessons and challenges among peers, while highlighting the methodology of the report, said Ms Hacibeyoglu.