As World Bank Pauses Doing Business Report, Pressure Mounts for It To Be Permanently Scrapped
On 17 August, the World Bank announced that it will suspend the publication of its much-criticised Doing Business Report (DBR). According to the Bank, the decision resulted from reports of, “A number of irregularities… regarding changes to the data in the Doing Business 2018 and Doing Business 2020 reports, …[that] were inconsistent with the Doing Business methodology.” The announcement noted that the Bank would undertake “a systematic review and assessment of data changes” and that the its independent Internal Audit function would perform an audit of related data and safeguards to data integrity. US newspaper The Wall Street Journal reported in August that the data for Azerbaijan, China, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates appeared to have been “inappropriately altered.”
As outlined in a September article in news agency Inter Press Service by Isabel Ortiz of the US-based Global Social Justice Program and Leo Baunach of the US-based International Trade Union Confederation, the decision to halt the report’s publication was “welcomed by trade unions, academics and human rights groups.” As they underscored, the report has faced numerous criticisms, including a call by a 2013 World Bank independent panel for the Bank to cease its use of the global rankings (see Observer Autumn 2013).
The report has also suffered more recent criticism, including from the Bank’s senior ranks. While he eventually retracted his statement and resigned, former World Bank Chief Economist Paul Romer expressed a lack of “confidence in the integrity” of the report’s data in 2018 and suggested that they could have been skewed to favour some countries over others, citing Chile as an example. Civil society groups have also stressed that the DBR continues to favour deregulation and lower taxes in apparent contradiction with the World Bank’s own stated concerns about rising inequality (see Observer Winter 2018).