The World Bank has downgraded Armenia’s position in its annual survey on ease of doing business around the world despite reporting a slight improvement in the country’s investment climate.
Armenia ranked 47th in the latest Doing Business survey which assessed economic conditions in 190 nations with a range of specific indicators. It was 38th in last year’s global rankings.
The country’s overall score has improved over the past year. The authors of the World Bank report believe that the Armenian authorities further simplified property registration procedures and facilitated businesses’ access to electricity supplies.
In a statement, the bank’s Yerevan office attributed the worsening of Armenia’s position to “significant improvements” of other countries’ business environments as well as “methodological adjustments and data revisions.” It did not comment further.
Prime Minister Karen Karapetian declined on Wednesday to comment on the latest World Bank assessment released on Tuesday. He said he will talk about it at an upcoming news conference.
Ever since he took office in September 2016 Karapetian has regularly pledged to improve the domestic investment climate. In its policy program approved by the parliament in June, Karapetian’s government committed itself to placing Armenia among the top 20 countries in the Doing Business rankings “as a result of reforms of the next four or five years.” President Serzh Sarkisian set this goal in May.
Earlier this year, the government promised 49 policy measures for that purpose. Those include stronger government support for small and medium-sized businesses, better investor protection, easier access to credit, and more simple rules for obtaining construction permits.
Some government officials claimed in August that this should help Armenia move up to 26th place in Doing Business already this year.
Artak Manukian, a Yerevan-based economist, downplayed the World Bank report’s practical impact on investor confidence. “In Georgia, for example, there has been a real fight against corruption,” he said. “Investors see that and that translates into a rise in foreign direct investment. Doing Business is the probably weakest of signals [to investors.] Unless it is backed up by practice, it will remain on paper.”