The World Bank Group has come under fire for bowing to political pressure from China and other governments to discontinue production of annual Doing Business Report.
The Bretton Woods institution announced last Thursday that it will discontinue publishing the flagship report after an investigation revealed data irregularities in the Doing Business 2018 and 2020 editions.
In a statement, Malawi’s largest multilateral creditor, through its arm the International Development Association (IDA), said after reviewing all the information available to date on Doing Business, including the findings of past reviews, audits and the report, the World Bank Group management has decided to discontinue the Doing Business Report.
The audit and review was conducted by law firm WilmerHale at the request of the bank’s ethics committee.
The World Bank said trust was vital as its research informs the actions of policymakers and helps countries make better informed decisions.
Reacting to the World Bank’s decision, economist Gowokani Chijere-Chirwa said in an interview on Monday that it was regrettable for the bank to be embroiled in such data scandals.
He said: “It takes years to build trust, but only seconds to destroy it. So, no matter what, people will raise eyebrows regarding this issue.
“The Doing Business Report is used to make decisions regarding investments, among others, thus some countries may have lost investment or jobs that affected economic output.”
On his part, policy analyst Alex Nkosi described as worrying news about “data juggling” by the World Bank.
He said the revelation “is a stain on the bank’s reputation” as an institution mandated to contribute towards the reduction of poverty and inequality.
“Research findings ought to be established by using credible and scientific methodology that is immune from improper data manipulations,” said Nkosi.
In a separate interview, an international development expert, Peter Yakobe said the World Bank Doing Business Report has been a valuable instrument in initiating economic reforms among developing countries.
“As such the discontinuation of the report will have a negative impact on the economic and entrepreneurship development of developing countries, including Malawi,” he said.
On his part, Ministry of Trade spokesperson Mayeso Msokera said the Doing Business rankings provided a framework for the Malawi Government to benchmark progress to implement various regulatory and institutional reforms to create a conducive business environment.
He said: “However, even with the discontinuation of the reports, the ministry will continue to undertake national assessments and champion implementation of reforms in collaboration with other stakeholders to further improve and create a more favourable environment for doing business in Malawi.” Malawi is among 190 countries which were annually assessed in terms of ease of doing business and the rankings are based on a country’s performance on 10 indicators, namely starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, protecting minority investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts and resolving insolvency.