World Bank’s “Doing Business” Changing Course
| Benito Arruñada |
Thanks to O&M for the opportunity to join the conversation. I plan to be blogging about some issues discussed in my book.
One of my recent research areas is the cost of business formalization. In particular, I have criticized the World Bank’s Doing Business project for the narrow focus of its “Starting a Business” indicator on reducing the initial costs of incorporating companies (Arruñada, 2007, 2009), which disregards the more important role of business registers as a source of reliable information for judges, which is essential for reducing transaction costs in future business dealings. In many developing countries, registers produce documents that judges do not trust and, therefore, registration does not facilitate impersonal transactions that it should be supporting. Reducing the explicit cost of registers and speeding production of useless paperwork will not help. The priorities of reform policies should therefore be thoroughly reviewed, aiming first for registers to achieve a minimum reliability. (See this discussion).
In April, following continuing pressure by Barney Frank, chairman of the US House Financial Services Committee, the World Bank decided to drop Doing Business’s “Employing Workers Indicator” and develop a new “Worker Protection Indicator” after concluding that the first indicator “does not represent World Bank policy and should not be used as a basis for policy advice or in any country programme documents that outline or evaluate the development strategy or assistance programme for a recipient country” (Aslam, 2009).
In line with my argument about registration, meaningful indicators of institutional quality should be comprehensive of costs and values. Therefore, an indicator of the quality of employment regulation should consider not only workers’ protection but other aspects, such as, most prominently, unemployment rates.