Bangladesh ranked 176th out of 190 countries in the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business index this year, which is the lowest ranking for a South Asian nation -- an alarming development given the government's claims of reforms to improve the score.
The Washington-based multilateral lender's Doing Business report, which was published yesterday, sheds light on how easy or difficult it is for a local entrepreneur to open and run a small to medium-sized business when complying with relevant regulations.
The report points out changes in regulations affecting 10 areas in the life cycle of a business: starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, protecting minority investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts and resolving insolvency.
Although Bangladesh's ranking has gone up one notch this time, its score in seven out of the indicators has deteriorated compared to last year.
Bangladesh's grade registered major fall in: starting a business (138 from last year's 131), getting credit (161 from 159 last year), protecting minority investors (89 from 76 last year), dealing with construction permit (138 from 130 last year), and trading across borders (176 from 173 last year).
There were improvements in the areas of getting electricity (179 from 185 last year), registering property (183 from 185 last year) and paying taxes (151 from last year's 152), which pulled up Bangladesh one notch this year.
Its grade remained the same in enforcing contract and resolving solvency although the scores were lower than last year.
The government has been pursuing reforms to improve Bangladesh's ranking by developing indicator-specific action plans, said Zahid Hussain, lead economist at the WB's Dhaka office.
“Despite these, the ranking has not improved much yet because of limited progress in implementation.”
Moving forward, the government will need to speed up implementation through stronger demonstration of high level commitment, regular follow-up, better interagency coordination and effective accountability mechanisms, he added.
Last year, among the eight South Asian countries, Bangladesh was only ahead of Afghanistan. But this year, the war-torn country too left Bangladesh behind: it came in at 167th in contrast to 183rd last year.
India ranked the highest in South Asia this year, at 77th.
The top five countries on the list are New Zealand, Singapore, Denmark, Hong Kong and Korea. The worst five performers are Somalia, Eritrea, Venezuela, Yemen and Libya.