WB: Serbia becoming more business-friendly

BELGRADE (AP) – Serbia-Montenegro has made great progress in implementing business-friendly policies, but there is still a long way to go in economic reforms, the World Bank said yesterday. «The country came to reforms late compared to neighbors in the region, and needs to catch up,» said Carolyn Yungr, World Bank envoy to the country. This week’s report, titled «Doing Business in 2006: Creating Jobs» and co-sponsored by the World Bank and the International Finance Corp., the bank’s private sector arm, found Serbia-Montenegro among the 12 most-reformed places to operate, out of 155 countries reviewed last year. Georgia, Slovakia, Germany, Finland, Latvia, the Netherlands and Romania were also among leading reformers. In the 188-page study, Serbia-Montenegro led in overhauling its policies, improving in eight of the 10 areas the report examined. Belgrade saw the report as a huge boost for conservative Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica of Serbia, the dominant republic in the two-member union. «A lot of good things have happened and some credit is due to the government,» Yungr told The Associated Press. «There has been tremendous progress, just as long as you don’t put up your feet and say you are done.» She stressed that «political stability is very important» for continued reforms but would not speculate on how political scandals shaking Kostunica’s Cabinet would translate to the economy. The report found that to take legal action to enforce a simple business contract, a businessman in Serbia required an average of 635 days in 2004, down from the 1,028 days the previous year. «That’s still quite a long time,» said Simeon Djankov, one of the report’s authors who was in Belgrade yesterday to present the World Bank study. Registering a business has gone down to an average of 15 days from the 53 needed in 2003, Djankov added. In the past nine months, 7,363 new businesses have opened up in Serbia. Djankov said Serbia needs to change labor legislation to make the labor market more flexible, and cut down on the red tape in trading. «The point we are trying to make is that Serbia needs to keep this up for a number of years,» Djankov said. «But it’s on the right path.» The World Bank study is based on data from more than 3,500 local experts, business consultants, lawyers, accountants, government officials and leading academics around the world.