Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Iraq Ranks As One Of The Worst Countries To Do Business In According To World Bank

Iraq continues to rank as one of the worst countries to do business in. The latest report by the World Bank, “Doing Business in the Arab World 2012,” not only placed Iraq at the bottom of the region in many categories, but at the low end internationally as well. Whether it was ease of doing business, obtaining credit, or trade, companies faced major barriers to success. That’s largely because the country has had a state-run economy since the 1960s. That legacy continues to negatively affect the nation, because many government bureaucrats and politicians do not know how to work with the private sector. Not only that, but the country’s growing oil wealth makes it even less likely to diversify. Those twin factors will largely keep Iraq from fully developing, and keeping it a rentier economy.

Every year the World Bank issues a report on doing business around the world. It looks at several economic indicators, and then ranks 183 countries. Its “Doing Business in the Arab World” included Iraq and nineteen other nations. Among those, Iraq ranked second to last overall. Saudi Arabia was number one in Arab countries and 12th internationally, compared to Iraq, which was 164 out of 183, and 19 out of 20 in the region. Only Djibouti did worse at 170. Iraq’s standing has actually been declining in the last several years according to the World Bank. In 2009, it was 153, then it fell to 166 in 2010, before hitting 164 last year, where it remains today. The reason for this stagnation is the fact that Iraq has carried out no economic reforms in the last several years, which would help improve its ranking. For example, it became more expensive to start a business from 2011 to 2012 with the cost of getting certificates of incorporation and the necessary lawyers increasing. Overall, beginning a company cost 115.7% of the national per capita income. The time involved was also considerable. In Saudi Arabia it only took 5 days to start a business, compared to 77 in Iraq, the longest of any in the Arab world. The government has done nothing to ease this process, and in fact, the World Bank said that the business climate has gotten worse in Iraq.

World Bank’s Doing Business Rankings (World Rank out of 183/Arab World Rank out of 20)
Saudi Arabia 12/1
United Arab Emirates 33/2
Qatar 36/3
Bahrain 38/4
Tunisia 46/5
Oman 49/6
Kuwait 67/7
Morocco 94/8
Jordan 96/9
Yemen 99/10
Lebanon 104/11
Egypt 110/12
West Bank/Gaza 131/13
Syria 134/14
Sudan 135/15
Algeria 148/16
Comoros 157/17
Mauritania 159/18
Iraq 164/19
Djibouti 170/20

The World Bank looked at countries according to ten different categories, almost all of which Iraq did badly in. At starting a business Iraq ranked 176 out of 183 internationally, and 18 out of 20 in the Arab world. There were 11 procedures entrepreneurs had to go through to set up a firm, tied for 3rd most in the Arab world. To complete all those steps took 77 days, the longest in the region. There were 13 procedures to go through to get construction permits, the fourth fewest in the Arab world. It took 187 days to complete that process however, which was the fifth longest in the region. The cost was exorbitant at 469.8% of Iraq’s per capita income, the fifth most expensive in the Arab world. Registering property took five procedures and 51 days, which was third worst in the region. Getting electricity to a firm was relatively easy however, ranked 46 out of 183 and 6th in the Arab world. There were five procedures, and they could be finished in 47 days. The price was very expensive however at 609.9% of Iraq’s per capita income. Paying taxes was not really an issue. Iraq ranked 49th internationally and 10 out of 20 in the Arab world, with a taxation rate of 28.4% of profits. The really big problems outside of starting a business were in terms of credit, protecting investors, importing and exporting, enforcing contracts, and resolving insolvency. Iraq was 174 out of 183 in getting credit. That’s largely because state-run banks dominate Iraq’s financial sector, and mostly support the government rather than businesses. Iraq ranked 122 out of 183 in terms of protecting investors with it consistently getting low marks in terms of disclosure and liability. Conducting trade was extremely difficult with Iraq ranked 180 out of 183. It takes 80 days to export at a cost of $3,550 per container, and 83 days to import at a cost of $3,650 per container. In comparison, in neighboring Jordan, it only took 13 days to export at a cost of $825 per container and 15 days to import at $1,335 per container. Finally, it took 520 days to enforce contracts, and there were no set practices for resolving insolvency, which was why Iraq ranked 183 out of 183 in that category. Because so many of the costs involved with starting a business are so expensive, getting credit or investors is a must. Those options are simply not available to many in the country, because of the underdeveloped banking system, and the lack of regulations and standards. Even foreign entities have a hard time in Iraq, because of the red tape and bureaucracy they have to go through. These are all reasons why Iraq ranks so badly.

World Bank Rankings (World Rank out of 183/Arab World Rank out of 20)

Starting a business: 176/18
Number of procedures 11
Time 77 days
Cost 115.7% of per capita income

Dealing with construction permits 120/13
Number of procedures 13
Time 187 days
Cost 469.8% of per capita income

Getting electricity 46/6
Number of procedures 5
Time 47 days
Cost 609.9% of per capita income

Registering property 98/15
Number of procedures 5
Time 51 days
Cost 6.9% of property value

Getting credit 174/18
Strength of legal rights index 3 out of 10
Depth of credit information index 0 out of 6
Public registry coverage 0% of adults
Private bureau coverage 0% of adults

Protecting investors 122/13
Extent of disclosure index 4 out of 10
Extent of director liability index 5 out of 10
Ease of shareholder suits index 4 out of 10
Strength of investor protection index 4.3 out of 10

Paying taxes 49/10
Payments 13 per year
Time 312 hours
Total tax rate 28.4% of profits

Trade 180/20
Documents to export 10
Time to export 80 days
Cost to export $3,550 per container
Documents to import 10
Time to import 83 days
Cost to import $3,650 per container

Enforcing contracts 140/15
Number of procedures 51
Time 520 days
Cost 28.1% of claim

Resolving insolvency 183/20
Time no practice
Cost no practice
Recovery rate 0

Iraq Compared To Other Arab Countries

Ease of starting a business

Number of procedures
Saudi Arabia 3
Lebanon 5
Oman 5
Egypt 6
Yemen 6
Iraq 11
West Bank/Gaza 11
Djibouti 11
Kuwait 12
Algeria 14

Saudi Arabia 5 days
Egypt 7 days
Oman 8 days
Bahrain 9 days
Lebanon 9 days
Kuwait 32 days
Sudan 36 days
Djibouti 37 days
West Bank/Gaza 49 days
Iraq 77 days

Cost (% of income per capita)
Bahrain 0.7%
Kuwait 1.2%
Oman 3.1%
Tunisia 4.2%
United Arab Emirates 5.6%
Yemen 83.8%
West Bank/Gaza 96.0%
Iraq 115.7%
Djibouti 169.8%
Comoros 176.2%


Number of documents
United Arab Emirates 4
Tunisia 4
Saudi Arabia 5
Djibouti 5
Qatar 5
Syria 8
Algeria 8
Mauritania 8
Comoros 10
Iraq 10

United Arab Emirates 7 days
Oman 10 days
Morocco 11 days
Bahrain 11 days
Egypt 12 days
Yemen 27 days
Comoros 30 days
Sudan 32 days
Mauritania 34 days
Iraq 80 days

Cost per container
Morocco $577
Egypt $613
Saudi Arabia $615
United Arab Emirates $630
Oman $745
Algeria $1,248
West Bank/Gaza $1,310
Mauritania $1,520
Sudan $2,050
Iraq $3,550


Number of documents
United Arab Emirates 5
Saudi Arabia 5
Djibouti 5
West Bank/Gaza 6
Tunisia 7
Algeria 9
Syria 9
Kuwait 10
Comoros 10
Iraq 10

United Arab Emirates 7 days
Oman 9days
Egypt 12 days
Bahrain 15 days
Jordan 15 days
Lebanon 32 days
Mauritania 38 days
West Bank/Gaza 40 days
Sudan 46 days
Iraq 83 days

Cost per container
United Arab Emirates $635
Oman $680
Saudi Arabia $686
Qatar $730
Egypt $755
Yemen $1,475
Mauritania $1,523
Syria $1,625
Sudan $2,900
Iraq $3,650

More and more countries, companies, and Iraqis are interested in doing business in Iraq. Iraq has a large population, a booming energy industry, rising incomes, and an economy that’s predicted to have double-digit growth over the next several years. That hides large structural problems. Oil for example, is the reason for the projected expansion since it contributes 60% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). At the same time, it only accounts for 1% of jobs. The increase in buying power is actually from a growing public sector that is fueled by oil revenues rather than any productive enterprises. That huge energy wealth is also the reason why the government feels no real reason to improve the business environment. It can simply continue with its oil dependency, and appease the public by giving them government jobs. There has been lots of talk about Baghdad diversifying its economy so that it doesn’t fall victim to the resource curse, but it has taken no substantive actions in the last several years, and instead just pumped in more money into the state. Since the ruling parties all benefit from this system, by taking their share of government contracts through corruption, and placating their followers with large patronage systems out of the ministries there will be no change any time soon.


Hall, Camilla, “Iraq held back by slow pace of bank reform,” Financial Times, 10/15/12

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Quarterly report to the United States Congress,” 10/30/12

World Bank, “Doing Business in the Arab World 2012,” 2012

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