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Data of 4 nations manipulated in 2018, 2020 Doing Business reports, World Bank to conduct audit

World Bank says it is pausing publishing of the Doing Business 2021 report and will conduct an internal audit of reports for the past 5 years.

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New Delhi: The World Bank is pausing the publication of its ‘Doing Business 2021’ report in view of the fact that data from Azerbaijan, China, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were found to have been inappropriately altered in the 2018 and 2020 reports.

In a statement issued Friday, the World Bank Group said, “We are pausing DB (Doing Business) as we conduct our assessment.” The Doing Business 2021 report was due to be published in the next two months.

‘Doing Business’ is World Bank’s flagship annual report on business competitiveness. They measure regulations that enhance business activity and those that constrain it. The reports carry the ease of doing business rankings.

The World Bank Group confirmed that changes were found in its 2018 and 2020 reports published in October 2017 and October 2019 respectively. It, however, didn’t provide any detail on the kind of data irregularities that were detected.

In another statement released Thursday, the World Bank group said: “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.”

The World Bank further said that it was conducting a systematic review and assessment of data changes for reports of the last five years. Its internal audit will go through the data collection process and make corrections accordingly.

Also read: India business climate has continuously improved, Amitabh Kant says after WB halts ease index

Data manipulation pointed out earlier 

This isn’t the first time that the rankings have been mired in controversy. In 2018, Paul Romer, then chief economist at the World Bank, had raised concerns about the Doing Business rankings and said the reports were vulnerable to “manipulation” by the bank’s staff over political bias.

Romer had specifically pointed out that Chile’s ranking had dropped sharply under its left-leaning government led by President Michelle Bachelet, alleging that data about the country had been manipulated to show a deteriorating business environment. Romer resigned from the post two weeks later.

The World Bank had conducted an audit later that year and said there was no political manipulation in the rankings.

India’s ranking

In the 2020 Doing Business report, published in October 2019, India was among those economies that were recognised for their “most notable improvement”. Other nations included Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Togo, Bahrain, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Kuwait, China and Nigeria.

“During the year 2018-2019, the said countries carried out one-fifth of all the reforms reported worldwide,” the 2020 report said.

India had jumped from its 77th position in the 2019 ranking to the 63rd position in the 2020 report.

Also read: Govt finances deteriorating. Postpone fiscal deficit goals, make economics more transparent


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