Doing business or "do you have a notebook"?

Photo: Dragan Mitrevski / Free Press

Suspicions of falsified results and an independent audit have shattered the World Bank's "holy grail of investment books." Covering the shame and "maintaining the integrity and impartiality", as announced by this international institution last year, ended a few days ago with an announcement that this edition will be idle and will not be published. The avalanche started last year when it was announced in August that the Doing Business report for 2021 will not be published.

In the official explanation of the World Bank from Washington, it could be read that "due to irregularities in the data, the issue has been stopped indefinitely, and the last five will be audited" ?! "Free Press" then addressed the World Bank Office in Skopje and, among other things, asked - are there any irregularities in the data for Northern Macedonia? From there we were sent the official announcement from Washington. Then it was announced that the new edition will be released in March this year, but after several months of silence, the World Bank interrupted with a statement that "Doing Business" will no longer be released.

And now, who will investors trust? How will the eventual damage be compensated if an investor has decided to invest in a country based on parameters that have been cut to get a flattering view? Did anyone touch and add more positive features for the investment position of the country? These questions may never be answered.

The latest Wall Street Journal reports that the Bank's top management has pressured employees to change data affecting the rankings of China and other nations, with the then-World Bank Executive Director Kristalina Georgieva now managing director. of the IMF, as well as World Bank President Jim Jong Kim.

Last year, in a rather cold statement, it was announced that there were some irregularities in the reports for 2018 and 2020, published in October 2017 and 2019, as well as that it is about China, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Azerbaijan was mentioned, for which, as stated, there is a suspicion that someone from the World Bank may have influenced the points they received, and are not in accordance with their defined methodology. The bank then decided to conduct an internal investigation to determine whether the allegations were true. For more than 17 years, the Doing Business report has been a valuable tool for measuring the cost of doing business in countries around the world. The indicators and methodology were not specifically designed for a country, but were intended to help improve the overall business climate.

Over the years, Doing Business has explored reforms that encourage or hinder the development of business activities. The survey was a set of quantitative indicators for provisions and protection of property rights in 190 countries. It covered 12 aspects of a business: starting a business, obtaining building permits, connecting electricity, registering property, obtaining credit, protecting minority investors, paying taxes, trading, enforcing contracts, dealing with bankruptcy, hiring, and contracting with the government.

If for many this report was the basis for planning investment activities, we should remember that during the previous government of VMRO-DPMNE, economic news began and ended with the "Doing Business" of the World Bank. And while the country was proclaimed "No. 1 reformer" with full mouths of praise, some independent experts "rolled their eyes" at such statements. Did they know anything more about the murky deals that are now coming out dosed, drop by drop?

According to the reports of "Doing Business", Macedonia was on the 30th place according to doing business in 2015, in 2016 it jumped to 12th, in 2017 to 10th, in 2018 it was 11th. In the last report with 80,7 points, Northern Macedonia was 17th in the world in terms of doing business. 

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