Milestones : Western Ally In Caspian Wins Kudos



Azerbaijan’s pro-business president, Ilham Aliyev.

The regulatory reform movement that has been thriving in Central and Eastern Europe in recent years is spreading eastward into Central Asia, with Azerbaijan taking the title of the world’s leading reformer of business regulations this year, according to a report published in September by the IFC and World Bank.

Azerbaijan showed improvements in seven of 10 indicators of business regulation that measure the time and cost of government requirements for starting and operating a business, according to Doing Business 2009, which ranks 181 economies. The Caspian Sea nation won high grades for its implementation of a “one-stop shop,” which cuts the time it takes to register a new business from weeks to a matter of days.

Azerbaijan president Ilham Aliyev has introduced a pro-business program to help diversify the country’s economy, which depends heavily on oil and gas production. Aliyev was in Moscow on September 16 and met with Russian president Dmitry Medvedev and prime minister Vladimir Putin. Russia has been pressuring Azerbaijan to sell a large amount of natural gas to Gazprom, but Aliyev was non-committal.

Regulatory reforms are gaining momentum around the world, with a record number in the year through June 2008, the IFC-World Bank report says. Africa also had a record year, with 28 countries introducing 58 reforms to make it easier to do business. Botswana, Burkina Faso, Egypt and Senegal were among the top 10 economies worldwide that reformed their business regulations.

Singapore led the global rankings on the overall regulatory ease of doing business for a third straight year. New Zealand was second, and the United States was third, followed by Hong Kong and Denmark.

China led among the large emerging markets by introducing business-friendly reforms that make it easier to access credit, pay taxes and enforce contracts.

Gordon Platt