Doing Business Report to be published after temporary suspension over data irregularities

23 March 2021

A December 2020 World Bank document revealed that the World Bank’s latest Doing Business Report (DBR) will be published in March 2021, after a temporary suspension in August 2020 over data irregularities. The publication will take place despite long-standing criticisms of the DBR and associated country rankings (see Observer Winter 2019) and a 2020 Bank review investigating claims that the ratings had been manipulated for Azerbaijan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and China. As the outgoing US executive director to the World Bank noted in a December 2020 tweet, the review found that, “staff felt undue pressure from management to change country rankings” (see Observer Autumn 2020).

The World Bank issued a statement in December 2020 outlining steps taken to address the issues that led to the DBR’s suspension, including a full review of the data irregularities, and required corrections to the data for the affected countries. The statement also noted that it would undertake another “external review of the Doing Business methodology…with findings expected in mid-2021” (see Observer Autumn 2013), stressing that the review is “unrelated to the specific data irregularities.”

Civil society organisations have raised concerns about the 31 March deadline for input into the review’s questionnaire and lack of external engagement in the review process. These shortcomings bolstered calls for an end to the report.

On 10 March, a letter signed by 346 civil society organisations, grassroots and labour movements, and academics was submitted to the World Bank’s executive directors calling for a permanent scrapping of the report, stressing that, “for too long, the Doing Business Report has encouraged policies that have worsened inequalities – including deregulations which exacerbated the global gender and racial division of labour – eroded labor protections and domestic resource mobilisation capacity, suppressed domestic aggregate demand and economic diversification and thus strained the legitimacy of state institutions.”