World Bank Probes Irregularities in Ease of Business Report Data

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The World Bank has suspended publication of its Doing Business report to probe alleged irregularities in the underlying data.

“A number of irregularities have been reported regarding changes to the data in the Doing Business 2018 and Doing Business 2020 reports, published in October 2017 and 2019. The changes in the data were inconsistent with the Doing Business methodology,” the World Bank said in a statement on Thursday. “We will act based on the findings and will retrospectively correct the data of countries that were most affected by the irregularities.”

Published since 2003, the report ranks 190 economies based on how easy it is to do business there, taking into account trading regulations, property rights, contract enforcement, investment laws, the availability of credit and a number of other factors.

In recent years, there have been questions about the integrity of the rankings. Paul Romer quit in 2018 as the World Bank’s chief economist after questioning changes to Chile’s order in the Doing Business report.

Changes to the World Bank’s methodology penalized Chile under Socialist governments, even though the underlying indicators barely moved, Justin Sandefur, senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, wrote in a blog in November. “Similarly in India, where Narendra Modi used India’s surge in the Doing Business rankings as a political talking point, we showed that methodological changes, not reform, had pushed India up the rankings,” he wrote.

India rose to No. 63 in 2019 from 142 in 2014, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi first took office.

“India will continue with our efforts to improve the ease of doing business, irrespective of the World Bank’s actions regarding its rankings,” Yogesh Baweja, spokesman for India’s trade ministry, said by phone. “Our steps are part of our efforts to ensure ease of working and ease of living for people.”

The World Bank is auditing data collection processes and is reviewing changes that occurred after the institutional data review process for the last five Doing Business reports, the multilateral lender said.

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