But makes progress on taxes, regulations
Jamaica dipped two spots to rank 90th in the annual Doing Business rankings report, despite improvements to its tax and customs procedures, according to the 2013 report released Tuesday.
It is still harder to do business in Jamaica than before, as only three of the 10 criteria registered improvements, according to the report analysing 185 nations published by the World Bank and its affiliate, International Finance Corporation.
Singapore tops the report followed by Hong Kong, New Zealand and United States. Jamaica was one step ahead of China, which ranked at 91.
Regionally, Puerto Rico, a US territory, led the Caribbean at 41 followed by St Lucia at 53.
It's Jamaica's eight straight decline in the ranking but this year's report indicated a qualitative improvement not seen in previous publications.
Jamaica was one of four Caribbean economies to improve regulatory reforms. The World Bank highlights both Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago as putting in place the most business regulatory reforms in a one-year period ending June 2012 of all Caribbean countries.
The Doing Business report also listed Jamaica among a small clutch of nations that made paying taxes easier in 2011-12.
"Jamaica made paying taxes easier for companies by allowing joint filing and payment of all social security contributions, and it reduced the time to import by allowing customs entries to be logged at night," said Augusto Lopez-Claros, director, Global Indicators and Analysis, World Bank Group, in a release on the island's performance.
The report also commended Jamaica on improving trading across borders.
"Jamaica facilitated overnight processing of customs declarations by extending the hours for lodging customs entries," it stated.
Jamaica can also boast of requiring few permits needed for construction at eight. China has the lowest at six while its neighbour, Russia, requires the highest at 42.
However, taxation, enforcement of contracts, customs procedures, getting electricity and registering property reflected the most burdensome elements of business in the island. The report lists 10 criteria that form the overall ranking.
Specifically, Jamaica ranked 163rd in terms of paying taxes, as some 45.6 per cent of profit are paid out as total taxes; over 368 hours spent annually paying taxes; and some 36 payments required per year. Comparatively, Jamaica ranked 172nd last year as one of worst places to pay taxes globally.
This year, Jamaica's sluggish legal system ranked it at 129th in the world, indicating that it takes some 655 days to enforce a contract; and that the cost will equal some 45.6 per cent of the claim.
The third worrying criteria related to getting electricity, ranked 123rd based on the prohibitive costs and delays.
Jamaica ranked 106th in relation to trading across borders, with the cost to export or import a container at some US$1,500 compared with competitive Japan at US$880 to export. However, the amount is far cheaper than reform darling Colombia at some US$2,800.
It ranked 105th in relation to registering property with a 7.5 per cent cost as a percentage of property value; and six procedures required.
The decline in Jamaica's ease-of-doing business ranking resulted in a wider decline in its regional competitiveness
The ranking of Colombia - which also suffers from drug and criminality - improved almost as dramatically as Jamaica declined.
In 2006, Jamaica and Colombia ranked 43 and 66, respectively, among 155 countries. Since then, Jamaica has dipped 47 spots to 90 of 185 economies while Colombia rose to 45.
Jamaica's best rankings were starting a business at 21 and resolving insolvency at 32.
Jamaica is categorised in the report as an upper middle-income country of 2.7 million people with per capita income of US$4,980.