Dubai: The UAE ranked top among Arab countries in the World Bank’s ease of doing business report ‘Doing Business 2017: Equal Opportunity for All’. It also figures in the list of the world’s top 10 improvers, based on reforms undertaken.

Others in the list of top improvers include countries such as Brunei Darussalam, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Belarus, Indonesia, Serbia, Georgia, Pakistan and Bahrain.

The UAE improved its global ranking in ease of doing business by 5 points this year to 26th position. Bahrain and Oman came second and third in the region with global rankings of 63 and 66, respectively.

In global country rankings of business efficiency, New Zealand took the top spot as Singapore slipped to second position. Others in the top ten include Denmark, Hong Kong, China, Republic of Korea, Norway, United Kingdom and the United States.

The World Bank report observed that pace of business reforms in the Mena region accelerated considerably in the past year. The report said that starting a business in the region remains challenging as it costs 26 per cent of income per capita on average, compared with 3 per cent in OECD high-income economies. But the report recognises that economies in the Mena region are taking steps to improve the process for start-ups and, in the past year, nine economies carried out reforms in the area of starting a business.

The UAE and Morocco undertook five reforms each during the past year. Morocco made starting a business easier by introducing an online platform to reserve a company name and reducing registration fees. And it strengthened minority investor protections by clarifying ownership and control structures and by requiring greater corporate transparency.

“The UAE implemented risk-based inspections during construction, thereby joining the 13 other economies in the world implementing this best-practice feature. The UAE also made it easier to start a business by streamlining name reservation and articles of association notarisation and merging registration procedures,” the report said.

Bahrain implemented reforms in the areas of starting a business, getting credit and trading across borders. It made the start-up process easier for entrepreneurs by drastically reducing the minimum capital requirement from 190 per cent of income per capita to 3 per cent. Bahrain also improved access to credit information by legally guaranteeing borrowers’ right to inspect their own data, and made exporting easier by improving infrastructure and streamlining procedures at the King Fahd Causeway.

The report finds that 15 of the region’s 20 economies implemented a total of 35 reforms to facilitate the ease of doing business. This is a significant increase from the annual average of 19 reforms during the past five years.

“It is particularly encouraging to see economies in the region carry out reforms in the area of Getting Credit, which remains harder in the Middle East and North Africa than anywhere else in the world.” Rita Ramalho, manager of the Doing Business project

Taking steps to strengthen the credit reporting system, Morocco, for example, began providing credit scores to help banks and other financial institutions assess the creditworthiness of borrowers. However, getting credit remains a major obstacle for entrepreneurs in the region as collateral regimes are highly restrictive.