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The Power of Ranking: The Ease of Doing Business Indicator and Global Regulatory Behavior

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 July 2019

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Abstract

We argue that the World Bank has successfully marshaled the Ease of Doing Business (EDB) Index to amass considerable influence over business regulations worldwide. The Ease of Doing is a global performance indicator (GPI), and GPIs—especially those that rate and rank states against one another—are intended to package information to influence the views of an audience important to the target, such as foreign investors or voters, thus generating pressures that induce a change in the target's behavior. The World Bank has succeeded in shaping the global regulatory environment even though the bank has no explicit mandate over regulatory policy and despite questions about EDB accuracy and required policy tradeoffs. We show that the EDB has a dominating market share among business climate indicators. We then use media analyses and observational data to show that EDB has motivated state regulatory shifts. States respond to being publicly ranked and some restructure bureaucracies accordingly. Next we explore plausible influence channels for the EDB ranking and use an experiment involving US portfolio managers to build on existing economics research and examine whether the rankings influence investor sentiment within the experiment. Using a case study of India's multiyear interagency effort to rise in the EDB rankings, as well as its decision to create subnational EDB rankings, we bring the strands of the argument together by showing how politicians see the ranking as affecting domestic politics, altering investor sentiment, and engaging bureaucratic reputation. Overall, a wide variety of evidence converges to illustrate the pressures through which the World Bank has used state rankings to achieve its vision of regulatory reform.

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Copyright © The IO Foundation 2019 

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