ARTA calls for review of WB’s Doing Business report

THE Philippines’ red tape watchdog is urging the World Bank (WB) to review the methodology of its flagship Doing Business report, raising concerns about the data collection method.

The World Bank’s annual Doing Business report assesses countries’ competitiveness by measuring regulations that enhance and constrain business activity. This means, countries with fewer regulations will have a higher ranking on the Doing Business index, and boost their attractiveness to foreign investors.

Last year, the World Bank paused the release of the latest edition after reported irregularities regarding data changes in the 2018 and 2020 versions. It noted corrections would be incorporated in the 2021 report.

Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) Director-General Jeremiah B. Belgica on Thursday expressed concern over parts of the methodology used in conducting the Doing Business survey in the country.

At a forum, he said survey respondents in the Philippines are not necessarily familiar with some government transactions assessed in the report.

“It may be that the respondents to the survey of WB are officials of the law or accounting firms while persons transacting with the agencies or LGUs (local government units) could be the liaison officers or processors or clerks or sometimes messengers of the law or accounting firms,” Mr. Belgica said.

The Doing Business survey team, he said, should select respondents that are familiar with the processes or regulations being assessed.

The ARTA chief also said that the World Bank should clarify to respondents that in counting processing timelines, respondents should make a distinction between the independent preparation time done by applicants and the processing time of the government agencies.

“There is also a need to brief the respondents very well to ensure that they have the right appreciation of the survey,” Mr. Belgica said. “Some respondents found it very tedious, detailed, and for some, very technical.”

Assessments on trade regulations should be done in Manila because not many exporters and importers are based in Quezon City, the city the report used as a benchmark, he said.

In the Doing Business 2020 index, the Philippines rose to 95th place from 124th place among 190 economies after improving its overall score to 62.8 points from 60.9 points, although it was seventh among 10 Southeast Asian Nations.

Starting a business became easier after the country abolished the minimum capital requirement for domestic companies and made dealing with construction permits easier, according to the report. But the country still needed to improve enforcing contracts, trading across borders, and registering property.

Mr. Belgica in a press briefing said that the government has been automating international trade processes and expects to add 500 local government units to an online central business portal. — Jenina P. Ibañez

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