WB’s Doing Business Rankings 2019


The World Bank has just released its Ease of Doing Business report [PDF] for 2018. You can also look at the global rankings and download the historical data [excel].

I have written about why this index is pretty useful:

First, elites pay a lot of attention to it. Several countries – including Russia, Kazakhstan, and India – have made climbing up the Doing Business rankings a matter of national economic planning.

Second, all else equal, more economic freedom really is “better” than less economic freedom. You do not need to be some kind of neoliberal hypercapitalist to appreciate that having more layers of bureaucracy, more hops you need to jump through to start a business or enforce a contract, as benefitting anyone other than the bureaucrats who create these rules in the first place. Indeed, when adjusted for differing GDP per capita levels, there is a strong correlation between a country’s place on the Doing Business rankings and its reported incidences of bribery/corruption, presumably because the more regulations you have the more opportunities bureaucrats have to shake businesses down. …

It is also highly objective. You look at the legal documents, count the number of steps and/or days required to set up a business or enforce a contract, and tally the whole thing. Necessarily more subjective assessments of the degree of corruption or the prevalence of the rule of law – important, but prone to bias – don’t enter the equation.

Regulations have been falling and ease of business has been improving throughout the entire world, as can be confirmed by looking at the historical data. The pace of change is rapid and there is nary an exception, which may explain a parallel, little rarely noticed collapse in business corruption.

To be fair, this isn’t the full story. To some extent, these rankings can be gamed – e.g. India does this – and the quality of bureaucrats also matters – e.g., Chinese bureaucrats are much easier to work with than Russian ones, even though China is lower in the rankings:

He said he had visited Vladivostok regularly since the early 1990s and could not fathom why Russia had lagged so far behind China in building its economy. “It feels like a developing country here. This is how China was decades ago,” he said. He added that he had tried to set up a small business in Vladivostok but had despaired at all the red tape: “What you can do in a day in China takes weeks here.”

But still, fewer regulations are almost always good. At the very least, it reduces the number of spokes bureaucrats can put in the wheels of commerce.


PS. Speaking of Russia, it has continued improving in the rankings, and now occupies 31st position out of 190 countries, wedged in between Spain and France – and up from 120/183 in 2012. when Putin started his 3rd term..

As we can see, Russia is now fully within the “range” of First World – not as business-friendly as the United States, with its age-old reputation for free-wheeling commerce, but more so than Italy, with its reputation for bureaucratic tyranny. It’s the best performer amongst the BRICS, and one of the best in East-Central Europe.

But otherwise, this is the sort of quiet but very real “reform” that Russia needs at the micro level, but that remarkably few of Putin’s liberal critics seem to notice.

In my last article, I noted that despite these improvements, Putin had formally failed to fulfill his ambitious 2012 election promise of climbing into 20th position on this ranking by 2018. However, one commenter on Facebook noted that the 2018 survey really referred to the year 2017. Well, this year’s survey, the 2019 one, refers to data for 2018, so we can now conclusively that he failed. Still, rising from 120th to 31st in the world within six years is so impressive that the failure to do even better shouldn’t be held against him.

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. silviosilver says

    How do you use it to compare countries though? Obviously you can look at the rankings, but what do the positions really tell you? Eg New Zealand is 86 and China is 74. Does that mean doing business in NZ is 16% easier than in China? That doesn’t really sound like a world of difference, which you might have expected it to be when you consider how different China and NZ are as countries. And if 74 implies it’s already pretty easy to do business there, then the difference with NZ could mean very little indeed. It would be a bit like if sneakers were rated by how easy it was to tie the shoelaces on them – even the lowest ranking sneaker is still going to be pretty easy.

  2. Georgia and Macedonia? Is this an index of ZOG subservience?

  3. anonymous coward says

    He added that he had tried to set up a small business in Vladivostok but had despaired at all the red tape: “What you can do in a day in China takes weeks here.”

    Complete and utter fantastical bullshit. Russia is probably one of the easiest countries in the world for starting a small business — you can do it completely online for $15.

    The trouble starts after, when you want to scale it to something more than a one-man cottage industry.

    The article is a fabrication.

  4. Felix Keverich says

    The article is a fabrication.

    I agree. It’s New York Times. Writing about Russia…

    NYT is skilled at selling its propaganda under the guise of professional journalism, but I’m willing to bet that none of the people “interviewed” for this article actually exists IRL.

  5. Singapore is #2. Djibouti, what the economists call the Singapore of Africa, is #99.

    It is remarkable that the UAE can be so far ahead of Saudi Arabia. Realistically, what does that say about their plans for Neom, that they can’t even approach the UAE on paper?

  6. jimmyriddle says

    Belarus always seems to do suprisingly well in your national comparisons.

    Somebody should nominate Batka for a Nobel Peace Prize.

  7. prime noticer says

    it says that ease of doing business in the US went DOWN. patently retarded, as the exact opposite has happened under trump.

    so i’m not an expert on this survey, and i’m not saying it should all be ignored. but it’s totally dead wrong about the biggest economy in the world. and if it’s that dead wrong about the easiest thing in the world in economics to study and verify, with the most data available, i’m not sure i would trust the rest without verifying.

  8. prime noticer says

    US is most competitive economy in the world for the first time a decade

    Wall Street Journal coverage

    Top 10, Bottom 10

    CNBC coverage

  9. It measures things like number of days or operations needed to complete various bureaucratic procedures. It is by far the most objective index that exists on this topic.

  10. European-American says

    Fixed #13 Taiwan on the chart

  11. silviosilver says

    Complete and utter fantastical bullshit. Russia is probably one of the easiest countries in the world for starting a small business — you can do it completely online for $15.

    The trouble starts after, when you want to scale it to something more than a one-man cottage industry.

    Fascinating insight. I bet the World Bank researchers never thought of this.

  12. Racist list. The majority of the top 20 are white countries. An equal majority of the bottom 20 are black. Besides, where is Wakanda? It didn’t even make the list.

  13. Gerard1234 says

    As Usual with Karlin…missing the main point. Russia, Armenia,Belarus and Kazakhstan are co-developing together with Russia at the front and progressing extremely well in these rankings ( and many other things). Shithole Ukraine is in no mans land/Africa territory, even though Russia and Ukraine just after the recession and in the early years of the Yanukovich term were at the same 120+ ranking level.

    Even Kyrgyzstan is doing better than Ukropia. Moldova and Georgia doing OK in these rankings but very poor in general, but in the case of Georgia and even Moldova it is irrelevant because scoring high in this gives the same false impression as low rates of rape in Saudi Arabia gives of womens rights in the western sense, and it is very easy to artificially increase the ranking for a small country used as a pawn in games against Russia.

    As for not achieving the top 20,Putin couldn’t have forseen sanctions against Russian banks from the whole west that would have severely crippled most countries….the trading between borders section is not just bureaucratic problems but is disproportionately affected by the Ukraine dispute and sanctions with the EU, which also affects the border trade between Russia and Belarus as Belarus acts as a conduit for illegal goods to and from Ukraine/EU

    The Paying taxes section is simply BS- Russia in actuality is significantly higher….Siluanov has relovutionised the taxation system in Russia…much more efficient and much more money intake.

    getting credit….money given out for mortgages is already 60% up on the same time last year, and there is no doubt people are asking for more, and banks are giving,,more credit at significantly lower interest rate then even 2 years before!

    Only an idiot would think that the tax system in Ukropia has changed for the better or that credit is higher of that construction permits are easier ( what construction? or what credit? are they noticing.. and what tax is being paid in a country a long way from even 2013 levels of life and economy?)…as the Index somehow implied about Ukropia…..it’s literally not a joke to think that they have just added some of Russia’s high score and donated it to Ukraine out of pity

  14. Why on Earth would a “European-American” care about the status of a renegade Chinese province?

  15. Daniel Chieh says

    Taiwan claims China(and most of Mongolia), they just disagree on which government is legitimate.

    From this point onwards, the Kuomintang’s territory was reduced to Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu Islands (Fujian Province), and two major islands of Dongsha Islands and Nansha Islands. The Kuomintang continued to claim sovereignty over all “China”, which it defined to include mainland China, Taiwan, Outer Mongolia and other areas.


  16. Why is China doing so well despite being barely above Italy, and Japan and Korea are also doing well economically despite pretty bad rankings?

  17. European-American says

    We European-Americans do get around, don’t we?

    I have several close connections to people from various East Asian countries, including Taiwan.

    And I appreciate Taiwan as one of the freest places in their area.

    I’m well aware of the many paradoxes of Taiwan’s geopolitical situation, so seeing it called “Taiwan, China” often bothers me both because it is inaccurate and simplistic and because it gives me a feeling of dread. It’s a little bit like casually mentioning “Crimea, Ukraine”, or “Granada, Spain”, or “Judea and Samaria, Israel”.

    And re: Daniel’s comment about Taiwan (aka Republic of China) claiming sovereignty over all of China and more… Historically true, but I doubt anyone in Taiwan still seriously adheres to that.

  18. Daniel Chieh says

    Taiwan is just a sad neoliberal comedy at this point. Hopefully it will be reunified peacefully, and President Madam Vegetablehead can go and vegetate somewhere else.

  19. South Korea is #5.

    I don’t know if any of that is bad territory. China still has a lot of development. These are marginal differences, but I’d still be embarrassed to be behind Turkey. Still, I wonder where some of their mainland cites would rank on this list, since their cities have different developmental priorities.

  20. Daniel Chieh says

    Its essentially a measure of ease for entrepreneurship, which is important but not the only source of wealth. Japan is an excellent example of a country with a terribly difficult entrepreneurship experience that still can generate a lot of value.