Four GCC countries - Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar - have been listed among the World Bank's top 20 improvers in its Ease of Doing Business 2020 list, along with India and Pakistan.
The UAE last year jumped 10 places to 11th in the ranking.
It also maintained first position among Arab countries. As a result of new measures taken by the GCC for ease of doing business, it can be expected that the four GCC countries will see further improvements in their rankings. However, the UAE will maintain its top position in the region as it is well ahead of its peers.
Bahrain is ranked 62nd globally followed by Oman (78th), Qatar (83rd), Saudi Arabia (92nd) and Kuwait (97th).
According to the World Bank, Bahrain made it easier to do business in nine of the 10 areas included in the ease of doing business ranking - all but starting a business.
Among the newly-introduced measures, Bahrain deployed new scanners at the King Fahd Causeway and established differentiated lanes for border crossing, introduced a new e-system for property registration, adopted a new law on insolvency that gives the option of filing for reorganisation and protections for secured creditors during an automatic stay in reorganisation proceedings. The kingdom also introduced dedicated venues to resolve commercial disputes with electronic service of process.
Kuwait made it easier for entrepreneurs to obtain a licence and the process for getting new electricity connection was also simplified following the digitisation of the application process. Registering property transfers is also faster now, thanks to an online system.
Kuwait improved access to credit information by guaranteeing borrowers the legal right to inspect their credit data and offering credit scores as a value-added service to banks and financial institutions. In addition, Kuwait amended the company law to help shareholders be better informed and more involved by increasing the minimum notice period for general meetings. Lastly, Kuwait made trading across borders easier by improving its customs risk management system and implementing a new electronic clearance system.
Qatar modernised public services. Kahramaa, the water and electricity utility company, introduced a new process to receive and review applications through its online portal, reducing the time to obtain an electricity connection. The ministry of justice streamlined property registration procedures and improved the quality of its land administration system by publishing official service standards and court statistics on land disputes. Lastly, the credit bureau started reporting credit data from a telecommunications company.
Saudi Arabia improved in nine areas, made starting a business easier by establishing a one-stop shop and eliminating the requirement for married women to provide additional documents when applying for a national identity card. It also adopted a new building code and launched an online platform for building permits. The Saudi Electricity Company put in place a geographic information system to simplify review of new electrical connection requests. It strengthened access to credit by introducing new laws on secured transactions and insolvency.
In addition, it took measure related to further protecting minority investors and updated its insolvency framework.
Surandar Jesrani, managing partner and CEO of MMJS, said sectors that have seen tremendous changes when it comes to ease of doing business in the GCC are F&B, pharmaceutical, service tndustry, technology and consulting, e-commerce, travel and tourism, logistics, retail and real estate, to name a few.
Sectors, according to Jesrani, that still needs further improvement for ease of doing business are oil and gas production, banking and insurance, training and education, land and air transport, printing and publishing, etc.
Jitendra Gianchandani, chairman and managing partner of Jitendra Consulting Group, says GCC nations have taken many steps such as improve property registration procedures and electricity applications made simplified. They also improved economic and regulatory reforms, improved access to credit information among others.
Gianchandani believes credit ranking for Saudi Arabia should be improved from 92 to below 50 or so. "Kuwait is behind when it comes to construction permits and getting credit. Qatar present rank for protection of minority investors is 178. They should improve on it. Bahrain should improve ranking for getting credit," he added.
India and Pakistan have been also been rated among the top 20 improves, thanks to initiatives taken by their different states. Other countries made it to the list are Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, China, Djibouti, Jordan, Kenya, Kosovo, the Kyrgyz Republic, Myanmar, Nigeria, Tajikistan, Togo, Uzbekistan and Zimbabwe.
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