The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, issued its annual report, known as Doing Business in 2006, on the competitiveness of countries worldwide in attracting investments. The report evaluates the environment of commercial transactions in 155 countries. Saudi Arabia bested all Arab countries and was ranked 1st in the Arab World followed by Kuwait, which was ranked 2nd in the Arab World and 47th internationally. Oman followed suit as 3rd in rank Arab-wide and 51st globally. As for the remaining Arab countries, results were as follows: Tunisia 58th, UAE 69th, Jordan 74th, Yemen 90th, Lebanon 95th, Morocco 102nd, Iraq 114th, Syria 121st, West Bank and Gaza Strip 125th, Mauritania 127th, Algeria 128th, Egypt 141st and Sudan 151st. Saudi Arabia’s ranking also exceeded many countries like France, Italy and Portugal.
The report ranked countries based on the average rankings of ten processes: Starting a Business, Dealing with Licenses, Hiring and Firing, Registering Property, Getting Credit, Protecting Investors, Paying Taxes, Trading Across Borders, Enforcing Contracts and Closing a Business.
Last year the Kingdom’s ranking was 67th among 135 measured countries. This 29 notch leap in rank by the IFC is a significant international merit of the Saudi Government’s efforts in creating a pro-business environment.
“This elevation in rank is a remarkable achievement for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and an encouraging factor for all investment-related governmental agencies. It indicates how a pro-business environment and cooperative stance among singular sister agencies can impact the overall investment climate of a country,” articulated HE Amr Al-Dabbagh, Governor of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA).
“However, while this leap in global investment faith is encouraging, we do not view it as our target as there is still room for improvement and development. We will assess the report’s content, including positive factors to be enhanced or negative factors to be addressed, as important criteria to establish gradual and continual improvements in the investment environment. Our ambition is to see the Kingdom ranked among the top 10 competitive countries by 2010,” concluded the Governor.
Al Dabbagh discussed the “Doing Business in 2006” report with Michael Klein, Vice-president for Private Sector Development jointly for the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) as well as Chief Economist for IFC, during the World Bank Annual Meeting in Washington DC.
The discussion focused on assessing the milestones that led to such a significant leap in country ranking. These milestones included extensive cooperation between sister ministries and their unified stance to improve the investment and economic environment under the sound economic directives of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz. The Kingdom had formed a Ministerial Committee last year entrusted to monitor investment impediments and to establish mechanisms for swift resolution.
SAGIA was commissioned to oversee the implementation of such mechanisms and to produce a six-monthly progress report. Hence, a department was created to run a program designed to improve the investment environment and remove obstacles facing investors with special emphasis given to developing more efficient procedures.
Moreover, SAGIA surveyed investment procedures in leading investment destinations to draw parallels from their experiences. Subsequently, SAGIA in coordination with sister agencies signed 17 Agreements, approved by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, to develop, expedite and facilitate investment procedures, remove obstacles and provide more incentives and support for domestic, joint and foreign investors in the Kingdom. Following the agreements SAGIA has also aimed to strengthen the delivery of its One-Stop Shop service centers.