The World Bank Group has decided to discontinue its Doing Business Report after an internal investigation revealed data irregularities that undermined reforms leading to reduction in scores of China, Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan in the 2018 and 2020 reports.
"World Bank Group management has taken the decision to discontinue the Doing Business report," the bank announced in a statement issued from Washington on Thursday, stating that it will be working on a new approach to assessing the business and investment climate.
After data irregularities on Doing Business 2018 and 2020 were reported internally in June 2020, the World Bank management paused the next Doing Business Report and initiated a series of reviews and audits of the report and its methodology, the statement said.
In addition, because the internal reports raised ethical matters, including the conduct of former Board officials as well as current and/or former Bank staff, the management reported the allegations to the Bank's appropriate internal accountability mechanisms, it added.
The World Bank also released the investigation findings in a report titled "Investigation of Data Irregularities in Doing Business 2018 and Doing Business 2020".
The independent external review, done by a firm, investigated how improper changes to the data for China (Doing Business 2018) and Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Azerbaijan (Doing Business 2020) were effected, and who at the Bank directed, implemented, or knew about the changes.
"Beginning as early as May 2017 and continuing through the Doing Business 2018 cycle, high-ranking Chinese government officials repeatedly expressed their concerns to President Kim and other senior Bank officials that the country's ranking in the Doing Business report – 78 in Doing Business 2017 – did not accurately reflect its economic reforms," the report said.
President Kim acknowledged the Chinese officials' concerns and responded that the report's methodology might require an update, but also encouraged the Chinese officials to focus on enacting economic reforms that would boost the country's ranking under the report's current methodology.
The investigation found the role of Simeon Djankov, a director of the bank, in not counting Azerbaijan's reforms in the final version of Doing Business 2020, causing reduction in the country's score by nearly two points, dropping it from the Top Improvers list.
The report, however, identified no evidence suggesting that the Office of the President or any members of the Board were involved in the data changes affecting Saudi Arabia and UAE in the 2020 report.