Singapore (ANTARA News/afp) - Singapore kept its top ranking for the third year in a row as the easiest place in the world to do business, the World Bank said in a report Wednesday.
The Asian city-state edged out New Zealand and the United States in the "Doing Business 2009" ranking by the World Bank.
Filling out the list of the 10 easiest business environments was Hong Kong, Denmark, Britain, Ireland, Canada, Australia and Norway.
The report, examining regulations and how they affect business, ranks 181 economies on the overall ease of doing business.
The top eight countries were in the same order as the 2008 list, but Australia and Norway traded places, according to the report produced by the World Bank and its private-sector financial development arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC).
At the bottom of the list was Democratic Republic of Congo.
"Economies need rules that are efficient, easy to use, and accessible to all who use them. Otherwise, businesses are trapped in the unregulated, informal economy, where they have less access to finance and hire fewer workers and where workers lack the protection of labor law," said Michael Klein, World Bank/IFC vice president for financial development.
Singapore ranked first on international trade and employing workers, and second on protecting investors and closing a business.
New Zealand afforded the greatest ease in protecting investors and starting a business. The United States led in making it easy to hire workers.
Among the world's largest economies, Japan held steady at number 12 from last year, while Germany fell to 25 from 20, China rose to 83 from 90 and Britain was unchanged in the sixth position. France moved up one spot to number 31.
Among rapidly growing emerging economies, Russia fell nine places to 120th place and India slipped two notches to number 122.
Saudi Arabia was the best performer in the Middle East, moving up to the 16th spot from 24, ahead of Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.
The report also looks at countries' progress in making regulatory reforms that enhance business operations.
Azerbaijan is this year's leading reformer, and jumped to 33 on the list from 96 last year, followed by Albania, at 86 from 135, and Kyrgyzstan, at 68 from 99.
"Among the large emerging markets, China led the way -- reforms there make it easier to access credit, pay taxes, and enforce contracts," the World Bank said.
The 185-nation development lender also highlighted Africa's "record year for regulatory reforms," saying 28 countries had completed 58 reforms in the criteria studied.
Still, nine of the 10 most difficult countries to do business were African, with Venezuela the sole exception.
In descending order, the worst were Niger, Eritrea, Venezuela, Chad, Sao Tome and Principe, Burundi, Republic of Congo, Guinea-Bissau, Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo. (*)