By Svetla Dimitrova
The majority of countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia made strides to improve the business environment for domestic small- and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) between June 2010 and June 2011, the World Bank said on October 20th.
According to its Doing Business 2012 report, issued jointly with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), 21 of the 24 countries in the region, including all Southeast European nations with the exception of Greece, implemented a total of 53 pro-business reforms.
“For the ninth consecutive year, Eastern Europe and Central Asia [are] the world’s most reforming region,” Iva Hamel, private sector development specialist at the World Bank-IFC Indicator Based Reform Advisory, told SETimes after presenting the study’s findings in Sarajevo.
She also noted that four of the countries from this region were among the 12 global economies found to have improved most on the ease of doing business during the survey period.
Morocco led the list, followed by Moldova and Macedonia, which carried out four pro-business reforms, each, last year.
The 212-page report covers 183 world economies, ranking them on the basis of an analysis of regulations in the areas affecting the lifecycle of domestic SMEs.
The ten indicators used in determining a country’s position include the time and cost to start and close a business, trading across borders, investor protections, registering property, construction permits, enforcing contracts, paying taxes and getting credit, as well as a new category measuring the ease of getting electricity.
Macedonia implemented reforms that made it easier to deal with construction permits, registering property, getting credit and resolving insolvency. This helped the Balkan nation improve its ranking in each of those individual categories and increase its overall ranking.
The country, which leaped 12 places to 22nd in the world, is the Southeast European country where it is easiest for domestic SMEs to do business.
“Macedonia has made the biggest jump and is now among the top 30 in the world,” Hamel said.
According to Business Confederation of Macedonia employee Aleksandar Jovchevski, the changes have led to a significant increase in the number of SMEs in the country.
“The bulk of them operate in the construction sector, where the demand has grown following the launch of the Skopje 2014 project and further works on Pan-European transport corridors 8 and 10,” he told SETimes.
“The wider use of modern technology in bureaucratic processes, which has reduced the time needed for obtaining any type of documents from the relevant services, has also contributed to an increase in the number of newly opened businesses,” Jovchevski said.
“It is not a problem to open a business from a technical standpoint; the challenge is to make it work long-term,” Mile Chupetanski, the owner of the ESKALIBUR engine-retooling factory in Bitola, told SETimes.
The other regional nations that improved their rankings were Cyprus (40th), Turkey (71st), Greece (100th) and Bosnia and Herzegovina (125th). The countries that lost ground were Bulgaria (59th), Romania (72nd), Croatia (80th), Albania (82nd) and Serbia (92nd).