World Bank pauses publication of Doing Business Report over data issues

Earlier, Kaushik Basu, who was the chief economist of the Bank during 2012 to 2016 had said India benefited from methodological changes
The World Bank has paused its much-talked about Doing Business publication due to alleged irregularities in its 2018 and 2019 reports. These two reports relate to the Ease of Doing Business rankings in 2018 and 2020.

Since India improved its rankings significantly in these two years, there is speculation that India's rankings might get affected due to the decision.

India jumped 30 places to the 100th spot in 2018 compared to 130 in the previous year. Similarly, it jumped to the 63rd place in 2020 against 77th in the previous year among 190 nations. The Modi government has aspired to put India in the first 5oth position, a task yet to be achieved.

However, the World Bank said,"We are conducting a systematic review and assessment. The countries most affected appear to be Azerbaijan, China, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.

It further said, "As per our statement, we will retrospectively correct the data of countries that were most affected by the irregularities."

Earlier, Kaushik Basu, who was the chief economist of the Bank during 2012 to 2016 had said India benefited from methodological changes. However, his statement was related to the earlier reports.

“For example, when India moved from 142nd to 130th place between 2014 and 2015, the DB (Doing Business) team and I computed that only four of the 12 positions that India had climbed reflected changes India had made, with the remainder attributable to changes in the DB methodology," reads an article penned by Basu that was published on Project Syndicate in February, 2018.

The Ease of Doing Business report was embroiled in controversy when former chief economist of the Bank Paul Romer resigned from his post in January 2018 after claiming that methodological changes in compiling the report led to a downgrade in socialist Chile’s ranking.

The Bank said in a statement from Washington on Thursday, "A number of irregularities have been reported regarding changes to the data in the Doing Business 2018 and Doing Business 2020 reports, published in October 2017 and 2019. The changes in the data were inconsistent with the Doing Business methodology."

Pointing out that the integrity and impartiality of its data and analysis was paramount, the Bank said it was immediately conducting a systematic review and assessment of data changes that occurred subsequent to the institutional data review process for the last five Doing Business reports.

"We have asked the World Bank Group’s independent Internal Audit function to perform an audit of the processes for data collection and review for Doing Business and the controls to safeguard data integrity. We will act based on the findings and will retrospectively correct the data of countries that were most affected by the irregularities," the statement said.

The board of executive directors of the World Bank has been briefed on the situation, as have the authorities of the countries that were most affected by the data irregularities, it said.

"The publication of the Doing Business report will be paused as we conduct our assessment," it said.

Over the 17 years of its existence, the Doing Business report has been a valued tool for countries seeking to measure costs of doing business.

"Doing Business indicators and methodology are designed with no single country in mind, but rather to help to improve the overall business climate,' the statement said. 



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