Russia advances in global Doing Business rankings to 31st position - World Bank

MOSCOW, Oct 31 (Reuters) - Doing business in Russia became easier again over the past year, but the country needs to deal better with protecting minority investors and regulating corporate responsibility, the World Bank said on Wednesday.

Russia advanced to 31st out of 190 countries in the World Bank’s 2019 business rankings, from 35th in the 2018 report and 120th seven years ago.

“Russia has once again demonstrated its commitment to improving the business climate for private enterprise,” said Andras Horvai, World Bank country director and resident representative for the Russian Federation.

The jump in rankings takes Russia closer to an ambitious target set by President Vladimir Putin to enter the top 20 by the end of the decade.

A better ranking in the Doing Business rating is a matter of prestige for Russia, hit by Western sanctions over the annexation of Crimea, Ukrainian crisis, alleged meddling in the U.S. elections and other “malign activities” as described by the White House. Russia denies any wrongdoing.

Russia is now one notch below Spain, ranked 30th, but above France in the 32nd place. New Zealand is the best place for Doing Business in the world, according to the World Bank, while Somalia is the worst.

In Russia, obtaining construction permits and connecting to electricity became faster over the past year, while trading across borders was made easier thanks to online customs clearance and a shortened time limit for its completion, the World Bank said.

The paying taxes procedure has also improved as costs declined, the World Bank said, adding that there was still room to improve in areas it labeled as Resolving Insolvency, Protecting Minority Investors and Trade Across Borders.

“Russia scores only 2 out of 10 in the extent of director liability index, which means that in case of misuse of corporate assets, directors would be held liable in very few situations,” the World Bank said in the annual report.

The Doing Business study focuses on regulation that affects small and medium-sized enterprises across several areas. These include starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, protecting minority investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts, and others.

“We look forward to continuing to record the country’s progress in adopting global best practices in regulating domestic small and medium businesses,” Horvai said. (Reporting by Andrey Ostroukh, editing by Louise Heavens)