World Bank report downgrades Belize’s “Doing Business” rank

A recent publication by the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation, Doing Business 2009: Country Profile for Belize, reports that the organizations have downgraded Belize’s overall ranking by 9, putting Belize as 78th of 181 countries analyzed, down from the 69th position Belize held in 2008.

The assessment looks more specifically at Belize’s overall “Ease of Doing Business,” and ranked it alongside 181 economies: 46 in Sub-Saharan Africa, 32 in Latin America and the Caribbean, 25 in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, 19 in the Middle East and North African, and 8 in South Asia. Also, 27 OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries, described as high income economies, were used as benchmarks.

Belize made its biggest slide on its ratings for “starting a business,” falling by 18 points, from 121 to 138.

However, according to the 75-page country report, Belize landed the #2 rank in dealing with construction permits, while it ranked 25th of 181 in employing workers and 24th in closing or winding up businesses.

Belize gets its lowest score for “enforcing contracts” through the local court system – though, notably, its rank has actually increased by one since 2008’s report.

With respect to enforcing contracts, the report looks at “the efficiency of the judicial system in resolving a commercial dispute,” and Belize gets its low rank based on the number of procedures involved in pursuing court action, the time it takes to receive payment on contracts if a ruling is obtained in the plaintiff’s favor, and the cost of pursuing court claims.

“Justice delayed is justice denied. And in many countries, only the rich can afford to go to court. For the rest, justice is out of reach. In the absence of efficient courts, firms undertake fewer investments and business transactions,” says the report.

The report cites that there were no significant changes between 2007 and 2009 reports in the number of procedures that have to be engaged in enforcing contracts through the court, as well as the length of time and the costs to resolve the claims before the court. (The assessment is made from the time the complainant enters the lawsuit to the time actual payment is made to settle the contract dispute.)

While the number and length of procedures in Belize were found to be higher in Belize than in Latin America and the Caribbean, as a whole, the cost as a percentage of the value of the claim was significantly lower than other places in the region.

Belize was ranked better than Suriname (which took the 177th spot among the 181 economies), but it was ranked worse than Guyana (73), the Dominican Republic (83), Haiti (92), Puerto Rico (97), and Jamaica (127). The report ranks China as number 1 in enforcing contracts.

The report is evidently intended to give foreign investors a gauge as to which countries offer the best business climate.