Historic leap: Jamaica surges 36 places in Doing Business rankings
Avia Collinder, Business Reporter
Jamaica has achieved the Caribbean region's highest ranking on the ease of doing business, and has jumped 36 places to 58 among 189 economies worldwide, according to the just-released Doing Business 2015 report.
Last year, Jamaica ranked 94. Its vault up the rankings breaks a nine-year streak of decline.
However, the island has received a rap on the knuckles for the slow place of developing electronic interfaces that accompany its extensive reforms and for higher taxation costs.
Doing Business is produced annually by the World Bank, and is usually dated the year ahead of its actual release.
The 2015 report tracks performance from June 2, 2013 to June 1, 2014.
The new report indicates that six of 12 economies in the Caribbean - The Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, St Kitts-Nevis, St Lucia, and Trinidad & Tobago - implemented at least one regulatory reform making it easier to do business in the year of review.
Overall, they implemented 12 reforms, a historic high for the region.
The World Bank noted reforms for Jamaica in the areas of starting a business, getting electricity connections, getting credit, and paying taxes.
An improved assessment of business-friendliness was widely expected for Jamaica, given its ongoing economic reforms agreed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme - under which gains have been praised both by the IMF's technical team as well as head of the agency, Managing Director Christine Lagarde.
Among 10 indicators, Jamaica ranked 12 for getting credit; 20 in the ease of starting a business; 26 for dealing with construction permits; 59 for resolving insolvencies; 71 for protecting minority investors; 111 for getting electricity; 115 for trading across borders; 117 for enforcing contracts; 126 for registering property; while its worst indicator continues to be paying taxes with a rank of 147.
The Doing Business report says that Jamaica made starting a business easier by consolidating forms, but also made it more time-consuming as a result of delays in the implementation of the electronic interface with different agencies.
Jamaica received an improved frontier score of 62.2, an improvement of 5.6 over last year, and collected a distance to the frontier score of 67.8. As noted in the new report, the ease of doing business ranking is now based on the distance to frontier score.
"This measure shows how close each economy is to global best practices in business regulation. A higher score indicates a more efficient business environment and stronger legal institutions," the World Bank said.
Also working in the island's favour is what the report describes as a fall in electricity costs associated with reducing the cost of external connection works.
"In addition, it improved access to credit by establishing credit bureaus and by adopting a new secure transactions law that implements a functional approach to secured transactions, broadens the range of assets that can be used as collateral, allows a general description of assets granted as collateral, and establishes a modern, notice-based collateral registry," the Doing Business fact sheet outlined.
Conversely, however, it was noted that Jamaica made paying taxes more costly for companies by introducing a new minimum business tax.
For the wider Caribbean and Latin American, Doing Business 2015 ranked Colombia as the easiest place to do business.
The report said that economies in Latin America and the Caribbean took steps to remove obstacles to business activity and strengthen legal institutions.
Within the Caribbean itself, the region's lowest ranking went to Haiti, at 180.
Despites its gains, Jamaica did not rank among the global top 10 economies showing improvements. Those were Tajikistan, Benin, Togo, Cote d'Ivoire, Senegal, Trinidad and Tobago, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Azerbaijan, Ireland, and the United Arab Emirates.
Globally, the report found that Singapore took the top spot on the ease of doing business, followed by New Zealand; Hong Kong SAR, China; Denmark; South Korea; Norway; the United States; the United Kingdom; Finland; and Australia.