Singapore and Hong Kong top the World Bank's annual ranking of the best places to run a business, while Rwanda, Russia and the Ukraine were among the countries that made the most progress in improving their business climates.
In its latest "Doing Business" report
, the bank says Singapore retained its No. 1 position for the eighth straight year, followed by Hong Kong, New Zealand and the United States.
Best Places to Run a Business
2. Hong Kong
3. New Zealand
4. United States
Worst Places to Run a Business
2. Central African Republic
4. South Sudan
The bank says Ukraine was the country with the greatest improvement since last year, jumping 28 spots, from 140th to 112th place.
Rwanda, which was credited as having made the most progress since 2005, jumped 20 places, to 32nd. Russia also moved up 20 places, from 112th last year to 92nd this year.
The World Bank report covers the economies of 189 countries using 10 criteria, including ease of opening a new business, enforcing contracts, registering property and obtaining construction permits, credit and electricity.
The data was based on surveys of 10,000 local experts, including lawyers, business consultants and government officials, and covered the period from June 1, 2012, through June 1, 2013.
Some watchdogs and governments — including that of China, which fell five spots to 96th in the latest report — have said that the World Bank report's rankings are misleading.
The World Bank says the rankings should be considered in the broader context of how countries have improved their business regulations, and not as an indicator of every factor that impacts economic growth.
Apart from Rwanda, the top sub-Saharan African nations listed in the index were: Mauritius (20), South Africa (41), Botswana (56) and Ghana (67).
Among Europe's top non-OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) states were Georgia (8), Lithuania (17), Latvia (24), Macedonia (25) and Armenia (37).
In South Asia, India (134) fell below Sri Lanka (85), Pakistan (110) and Bangladesh (130).