In December 2022, the World Bank published the updated concept note of its Business Enabling Environment (BEE) project, the successor of its much criticised ‘flagship’ Doing Business Report (DBR), cancelled due to a data manipulation scandal in September 2021 (see Observer Winter 2021, Autumn 2021). The BEE has subsequently been rebranded as the Business Ready (B-Ready) project.
Civil society organisations (CSOs) worldwide have for decades called for the DBR’s cancellation on substantive grounds, for instance via an open letter signed by over 360 CSOs, trade unions and individuals on 11 March 2021. Given the strong evidence and the critique published in March 2022 by the Bank’s Independent Evaluation Group, civil society was extremely displeased with the launch of B-Ready. Maju Varghese of Indian CSO Centre for Financial Accountability lamented, “The launching of the B-Ready report will bring cheer only to businesses and corporations who want to further deregulate environmental and labour policies. We need better regulations to ‘B Ready’ to fight climate change and rising inequality rather than make economies more ‘Ready’ for exploitation and extraction.” Rodolfo Lahoy of Philippines-based IBON International added, “The now-defunct DBR served as a neoliberal whip on governments and was rightly criticised…its successor sends an ominous message: be ready for more of the same profit-centred approach that has hollowed out and drained resources from Southern economies. Instead of artificially reviving dead reports, we need the Bank’s development approach to be held accountable for driving today’s crises and exposing peoples to their effects.”
A 7 March 2022 CSO submission to the B-Ready consultation echoed the call for an urgent rethink of the Bank’s private sector-led approach, calling for an evaluation of its development impact, a recommendation that is more relevant today in light of the push for the expansion of the failed Cascade approach in the World Bank’s Evolution Roadmap (see Observer Summer 2023).