World Bank suspends 'Doing Business' report twice protested by Philippines
In this file photo taken on January 17, 2019 The World Bank Group logo is seen on the building of the Washington-based global development lender in Washington on January 17, 2019.
AFP/Eric Baradat
World Bank suspends 'Doing Business' report twice protested by Philippines
Ian Nicolas Cigaral ( - August 28, 2020 - 7:04pm

MANILA, Philippines — The World Bank has suspended the release of its flagship publication gauging “Ease of Doing Business” in member countries due to “data irregularities” in two previous reports.

In a statement on Thursday evening, the Washington-based multilateral lender said it found “a number of irregularities” that were “inconsistent” with its methodology in the 2018 and 2020 editions of its annual report.

“We are 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,” World Bank said.

“The publication of the Doing Business report will be paused as we conduct our assessment,” it added.

The suspension culminates sporadic years when the Washington-based lender came under attack for its annual rankings of economies on the ease, or difficulty, on opening up and operating businesses. Governments had said the surveys did not reflect the realities on the ground, or that the methodology used hardly represented their entire economies.

The Philippines was among the countries that have protested the accuracy of the reports, first in 2015 under the Aquino administration and more recently in 2018 under the Duterte government. At the most recent complaint, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III alleged that the report was “grossly inaccurate.”

Economic managers, at the time, questioned specifically the “understated” findings of one indicator, that which measured access to credit of enterprises where the Philippines experienced a "drastic slide" in score from 30 to 5.

In that contested 2019 edition, which is not a series where World Bank found irregularities, Manila dropped 11 notches in the rankings. The following year after government complained, the Philippines jumped 29 notches to 95th place.

“We welcome the move and it is good to have a systematic review of the metrics and methodology, which was also the subject of our complaint 2 years ago,” Lopez said in a Viber message when sought for comment on the agency’s decision. Dominguez did not reply to similar queries.

The review also matters if one would consider how policymakers look at the World Bank's Doing Business report as a key document followed by investors in weighing where to invest. In fact, the Duterte administration targets to move up of the rankings towards the upper 40% bracket of the list. 

While providing no timeline on both the review and republication of the report, the World Bank said a thorough assessment would be conducted.

“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,” it added. 

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