World Bank ranks UK seventh-best place for business

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The Independent Online

Britain is the seventh-best place in the world to do business, according to a rigorous assessment of 145 countries by the World Bank.

Britain is the seventh-best place in the world to do business, according to a rigorous assessment of 145 countries by the World Bank.

Britain was the most highly ranked country in Europe in terms of starting or closing a business, hiring or firing workers, enforcing a contract, getting credit and registering a property. But it ranked behind New Zealand, the United States, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia and Norway, according to the report Doing Business in 2005.

The UK was praised for "streamlining" its bankruptcy procedures and was the country where borrowers and lenders had the most legal rights.

The World Bank found enlargement of the European Union had encouraged its members to carry out reforms aimed at making it easier to start a business. Seven of the top 10 reformers were EU states, which between them implemented more than one-third of the competitiveness reforms carried out across the world in 2003.

"Accession countries reformed ahead of the competitive pressures on their businesses in the larger European market," the report said. "Incumbent members reformed to maintain their advantage in the presence of many low-wage producers from accession countries that would now compete on equal terms."

However, it said the world's poorest countries continued to lag behind in making the reforms that would boost employment, economic growth and tax revenues. It said businesses in poor countries faced much larger regulatory burdens than those in rich nations. For instance, it took 153 days to start a business in Mozambique, one of the world's poorest countries, but just 48 hours in Canada.

It said heavy regulation and weak property rights excluded the poor from doing business and forced entrepreneurs into the illegal economy, depriving the government of revenue.

"The pay-offs from reform appear large," the report said. "A move into the top quarter of countries in terms of doing business is associated with up to 2 percentage points more annual economic growth."

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