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Africa Praised for Its Progress in Business Reforms

This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

The World Bank has just rated countries on how friendly they are to business. And the biggest news was the progress in Africa. Two African countries, Ghana and Tanzania, are listed this year among the top ten in business reforms.

For the last two years, the World Bank found that Africa had the least progress in reforms in studies of ten business-related areas. The international lender says African countries still have the most complex business rules. But it finds that Africa is making progress at a rate faster than Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.

The report is from the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation, the private financing agency of the World Bank Group. This is the fourth year of reports called "Doing Business." The new one is called "Doing Business Two Thousand Seven: How to Reform."

It says the top five reformers, in order, are Georgia, Romania, Mexico, China and Peru. France is next, followed by Croatia, Guatemala, Ghana and Tanzania.

Efforts to reduce the time, cost and trouble of legal and administrative requirements can mean greater economic activity. Business reforms are important especially to developing economies.

For example, until recently, it took more than one year to receive property ownership documents in Ivory Coast. Now the process takes about one month. The government no longer requires a single minister to deal with all requests to register property.

In China, the government has established a system of credit records, to help people get personal loans. Now, three hundred forty million Chinese have credit histories.

Mexico was praised for increasing protections for investors. And, in El Salvador, business reforms cut the time needed to start a business from more than one hundred days to just twenty-six days.

Some nations, however, increased barriers to doing business. The World Bank says these include Bolivia, Eritrea, Hungary, East Timor, Uzbekistan, Venezuela and Zimbabwe. It says these nations made it more difficult to do things like get credit, register property or move goods across borders.

The report rates one hundred seventy-five economies on the ease of doing business. The top five, in order, are Singapore, New Zealand, the United States, Canada and Hong Kong.

And that's the VOA Special English Development Report, written by Mario Ritter. A link to the "Doing Business" Web page can be found at I'm Steve Ember.