Business

Jamaica slips three spaces in crucial Doing Business Report

BY KARENA BENNETT
Business reporter
bennettk@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

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One month after showing improvement on the Global Competitiveness Report, Jamaica has conversely slipped three places in the prestigious Doing Business Report 2018 ranking to 70 of 190 countries.

The country also fell one place back in its rank among Caribbean neighbours, holding second position in respect of doing business behind Puerto Rico. Jamaica however maintained its overall spot at sixth in the Latin American and Caribbean region.

New Zealand, for the second- consecutive year, ranked first on the ease of doing business, while at the other end of the chart stood Somalia. A high ease of doing business ranking means the regulatory environment is more conducive to the starting and operation of a local firm.

Jamaica's 2018 ranking follows rapid ascension for the island after it placed seven spots above its 2015 ranking to 65 in 2016, but fell to 67 for 2017.

Last year, however, the World Bank noted that 2017 rankings cannot be directly compared with those for 2016 “due to adjustments in its methodology.”

Despite the downward movement in ranking, Jamaica did manage to record some improvements, including its distance to frontier score, which helps to assess the absolute level of regulatory performance over time. The country moved to 67.27 for the year 2018 compared to 66.70 a year earlier.

According to the World Bank, the improvement in the country's score for this area was led by swift implementation of reforms, so much that Jamaica was featured as the third country in the Latin America and Caribbean region for having implemented the most reforms over the last 15 years.

In a round-table interview with the Jamaica Observer yesterday, World Bank country manager for Jamaica, Galina Sotirova, had a positive view of the rankings.

“This is another positive message. It means Jamaica has a lot of good trends and that the country can be on the top of the indicators when there is commitment and when there is a will to implement the reforms, but other countries are doing better than Jamaica,” she said.

“I keep saying we are in the land of Usain Bolt and we should do better so that next year we are ahead of the other economies rather than other economies taking over by being more forceful on other reforms,” she warned.

To date, Jamaica — under the guidance of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other agencies — has implemented a total of 25 reforms, following closely to Mexico with 26 reforms and Colombia with 34 reforms.

The latest reforms being undertaken by the Government of the Jamaica are the public sector transformation programme and the pension reform. However, the country was recognised for reducing the time to start a business, improved reliability of electricity supply, resolving insolvency, and improved trading across borders.

More specifically, Doing Business found that Jamaica ranked among the best globally in the area of starting a business — with a rank of 5 — taking just three days to register a business, compared to 31 days 15 years ago. The country was also recognised among the top 20 countries in the getting credit indicator for its comprehensive credit reporting system.

Having received thumbs down last year, Jamaica beefed up investment in the distribution network for the supply of electricity in Kingston, including the installation of smart metres and distribution of automation switches, which also contributed to the country's improved Doing Business ranking.

Additionally, implementation of the web-based customs data management platform, ASYCUDA World, saw Jamaica getting closer to global best practices in business regulations.

Nonetheless, the World Bank noted that one of the biggest challenges for the region is the time it takes to pay taxes. On average, tax payment takes 332 hours per year in Latin America and the Caribbean, compared to the average of 161 hours per year in the OECD high-income economies.

The region also underperformed in the areas of registering property, dealing with construction permits and starting a business. It takes on average 63 days to transfer property in the region, which is significantly more than across OECD high-income economies where it takes 22.5 days.

“Looking at the indicators, there are areas that Jamaica really needs to focus on and policy reforms in these areas could make a huge improvement in the overall ranking. More importantly, the overall ease of doing business in Jamaica helps investors and helps local businesses to expand,” Sotirova said.

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