World Bank Suspends Doing Business Report

Sep 02, 2020


September 1, 2020

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Anuradha Mittal
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  • The Doing Business Report (DBR) has been “paused” by the World Bank after acknowledging a number of “irregularities” in the data used.

  • The report—used to drive policy and regulatory changes favorable to businesses and corporations—ranks countries on the “ease of doing business.”

  • This suspension comes less than two years after the World Bank’s then-Chief Economist, Paul Romer, exposed the manipulation of DBR data to support right-wing governments in Chile.

  • Our Land Our Business, a multi-continental campaign, calls for a complete end of the Doing Business program.

Oakland, CA—On August 27, the World Bank announced it will “pause” the Doing Business Report (DBR) after a number of “irregularities” were found regarding data used in the 2018 and 2020 reports. The Bank will conduct a “systematic review and assessment of data changes” and has mobilized its independent Internal Audit function to “perform an audit of the processes for data collection and review.” This suspension, which could spell the end to nearly twenty years of the DBR, is good news for the people, the climate, and the planet.

Since DBR’s launch in 2002, the World Bank ranks countries on the “ease of doing business,” i.e. on regulatory changes and reforms that make them more attractive to private investors. These include cutting administrative procedures, lowering corporate taxes, environmental safeguards, social and labor standards, and removing restrictions to trade and business. The Oakland Institute has extensively documented the disastrous impact of these regulatory changes at the country level in dozens of countries. “The Doing Business Report drives an insidious race to the bottom where policy makers around the world are competing on being more attractive to private investors instead of protecting the environment and the well-being of their citizens,” said Frédéric Mousseau, Policy Director of the Oakland Institute. “But even worse is the political manipulation of the data—as revealed in 2018 by the World Bank’s then-Chief Economist, Paul Romer—who exposed how the DBR was used to support right-wing governments in Chile and to undermine progressive regimes and eventually democracy,” Mousseau continued.

The suspension of the DBR is welcome news for the 280-organization strong Our Land Our Business campaign, comprised of NGOs, unions, farmers, and consumer groups from over 80 countries that calls for the end of the rankings. Focused on promoting corporate interests, the DBR encourages destructive practices instead of policies that put people and planet first. Civil society’s concerns are backed by an independent panel of experts who recommended an end to the DBR’s country rankings in 2013. Noting the lack of scientific evidence to support the indicators, the panel criticized the DBR for not recognizing the socio-economic benefits of regulation, including environmental protection, safety, and worker protection. Its recommendations were, however, blatantly ignored by the Bank.

“For nearly two decades, the Bank has happily wielded its influence and power to push its pro-corporate agenda on governments around the world – willfully ignoring the social, economic, and environmental devastation it has created. The world needs development policies that serve people, not policies that focus on economic growth at all costs. Regardless of the findings of the internal review and audit, the Doing Business rankings are fundamentally flawed and must be permanently ended,” said Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute.