The following story is about how one country responded to disappointing Doing Business scores to reform its rules and regulations for its own benefit. Would discontinuation of this instrument mean its non-availability to others?
The above image is for illustration and is of iStock.
How one country responded to disappointing Doing Business scores
On September 16, 2021, the World Bank discontinued the Doing Business (DB) report, one of its flagship diagnostic products. This action follows what the World Bank called “a series of reviews and audits of the report and its methodology.”
The DB report, published each year since 2004, was one of the World Bank’s most influential reports in recent years. Every autumn, people around the world would wait eagerly and, in some cases, with some trepidation, for its release. Over time, the reports increasingly attracted the attention of heads of governments who wanted to see their countries do well in the rankings.
When the DB report came out in 2015, the Indian government was disappointed. Soon after taking office in 2014, Prime Minister Modi announced his government’s intention to bring India’s ranking into the top 50 within a few years. Several reforms were carried out in the following months, which the Indian government hoped would put India on a trajectory of rapid annual improvements in the ranking. The 2015 report (officially called “Doing Business in 2016”, since the World Bank always gave the report a forward-looking title) indicated only a modest improvement in India’s rank, from 142 to 130.
The World Bank explained to the Indian government that while several reforms may have been enacted on paper, Indian businesses did not report feeling an impact on the ground. Some responded, “What reforms?”, while others heard about the reforms but had not seen improvement on the ground. The reforms could not be officially recognized until the private sector reported real improvements. The World Bank suggested that the government put in place feedback loops to provide real-time information from businesses on whether the reforms were being well implemented. The government, instead of whining further about the scores, started working on such feedback loops. For several regulatory reforms covered by the DB indicators, it started surveying businesses on whether they felt any reform impact on the ground.
From February 2016 to May 2017, the government carried out a series of business-to-government (B2G) feedback exercises and focus group discussions (FGDs) on how much the businesses were aware of the enacted reforms and their views on the quality of reform implementation. Nine B2G feedback exercises were carried out. Topics covered construction permits (three surveys each in Delhi and Mumbai), starting a business (two surveys), and trading across borders.
The exercises revealed several implementation gaps, some major and some minor. An example is construction permitting. A business survey carried out in Delhi in March 2016 revealed the following implementation issues: a) significant lack of agency coordination—architects still need to obtain approvals from up to 10 different agencies; b) some facilities for online payment were not properly implemented and certain fees were still paid manually; c) very low awareness of the online system among users; d) no way to track the status of an application; e) information lacking on documentary and other requirements. In other words, the reforms had not gone far enough to have impact on the ground.
This feedback exercise helped generate several recommendations to address the deficiencies. These were provided to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), and most were acted upon. Follow-up feedback exercises in October 2016 and February 2017 validated these actions while generating additional recommendations for further improvement. A similar effort was made in Mumbai.
The impact of these efforts can be seen in the trends in India’s performance on the “Dealing with Construction Permits” indicator. In the Doing Business in 2016 report, India’s ranked 183 on this indicator. Thirty-three procedures were involved taking 191 days according to the indicators. Two years later, the number of days had come down to 144 with a modest improvement in the rank to 180. The more substantial improvements came the following year when the DB report published in October 2018 indicated a reduction in the number of procedures and days required to 18 and 95 respectively. Still a long way to go but enough to propel India’s ranking on this indicator to 52. While all this improvement cannot be attributed to the feedback exercises alone, it is possible to trace a substantial part of this improvement to actions taken as a result of these exercises.
The Indian government also recognized that the DB indicators did not cover many regulatory interfaces that created problems for businesses and that the indicator measures were based on conditions in just two cities, i.e., New Delhi and Mumbai. Thus, in parallel to its efforts on the DB front, the Indian government embarked on an ambitious regulatory reform program at the state-level covering all states and union territories in the country. A long list of regulatory reforms was identified covering several regulatory areas, and state governments were instructed to carry out the reforms. Called the Business Reforms Action Plan, the program started in 2015.
Progress was monitored through annual indicators that ranked states according to their performance on implementing the reforms. The first such indicators, published in 2015, did not take into account business feedback. However, seeing the usefulness of the feedback exercises carried out as part of the DB program, the government changed the state-level reform indicators in 2018 by making a substantial part of the indicator scores dependent on business feedback.
The powerful demonstration effect of such feedback exercises had touched individual state governments too. In 2018, four state governments, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, and Rajasthan, expressed an interest in knowing why there was poor uptake of self-certification and third-party certification options provided in business inspection reforms carried out by these states. At their request, the World Bank carried out an independent feedback exercise that could help design corrective actions to improve uptake.
The Indian experience from 2016 onward is a good example of what the DB indicators can lead to if governments use them well. First, the government refocused its attention from reforms on paper to reforms on the ground. Second, it recognized the importance of consulting with the private sector, which knows best where the shoe pinched, and designed corrective actions based on the feedback. This iterative process helped improve reform implementation quality. Third, the government recognized that while the DB indicators were useful, they were not adequate to diagnose the myriad of regulatory issues that businesses all over India faced. Thus, the government embarked on a more comprehensive, state-level, reform program, and, inspired by the power of indicators, underpinned this program by a set of performance indicators. Finally, once the pioneering DB-related feedback exercises proved useful, they created a demonstration effect, first within the central government, which replicated such exercises for the state-level reform program, and then on individual state governments.
The UAE seeks to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 with a $163B plan. It is one of the countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region since its founding that wants to effectively attract investments through diversification of its economy. The country is one of the biggest oil exporters in the world. It announced an ambitious plan to achieve zero carbon emissions that would see the Gulf nation spending $163 billion on renewable energy. The plan to be completed by 2050, puts this country at the top of the MENA region in terms of concrete climate commitment.
The above image is for illustration and is of Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan as seen during the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates January 13, 2020. WAM/Handout via REUTERS
UAE seeks to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 with $163B plan
The United Arab Emirates on Thursday announced a plan for net-zero emissions by 2050, and would oversee 600 billion dirhams ($163 billion) in investment in renewable energy.
This makes it the first country in the Middle East and North Africa region to launch a concrete initiative to achieve that climate commitment.
The Gulf state has launched several measures over the past year – coinciding with 50 years since the country’s founding – to attract investment and foreigners to help the economy recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The economic initiatives also come amid a growing economic rivalry with Gulf neighbour Saudi Arabia to be the region’s trade and business hub. read moreReport ad
“We are committed to seize the opportunity to cement our leadership on climate change within our region and take this key economic opportunity to drive development, growth and new jobs as we pivot our economy and nation to net zero,” said Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai.
The UAE, an OPEC member, has in the past 15 years invested $40 billion in clean energy, the government said. Its first nuclear power plant, Barakah, has been connected to the national grid and the UAE aims to produce 14 GW of clean energy by 2030, up from about 100 MW in 2015, it said. read more
No further details on the 600 billion dirhams of investment were given.
The UAE will use the path to net zero as a way to create economic value, increase industrial competitiveness and enhance investment, said Sultan Al Jaber, minister of industry and advanced technology and special envoy for climate change.Report ad
The UAE is bidding to host the COP28 global climate talks in 2023.
Makarochkina, Senior Vice President, Secure Power Division, International Operations at Schneider Electric, highlights how the data centre industry in MENA can benefit from the recovery in economies across the region
With an end in sight to the major public health measures associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, recovery and renewed development is high on every business agenda.
The data centre sector in the Middle East and North Africa is poised to take advantage of the recovery in economies across the region, as businesses and consumers adapt to new realities, while also looking forward to new opportunities.
With forecasts of significant growth in spending, there is an unprecedented opportunity for the sector to achieve digital transformation goals, incorporate new technologies and build a base of sustainability that will see it thrive into the future.
According to a recent report from IDC, after a contraction of some 4.9% in 2020, IT spending across the Middle East, Turkey, and Africa (META) will make a return to growth this year, increasing 2.8% to $77.5 billion. Furthermore, spending on digital transformation is set to accelerate in the post-pandemic period, increasing from 25% of total IT spending in 2020 to 37% by 2024.
Within that spending intent, the analyst reports that public cloud services spend will grow 26.7% to $3.7 billion, with SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS spend growing 24.5%, 30.6%, and 30.7%, respectively. Attendant with this is a professional cloud services spend growth to a total $1.6 billion.
The spend is reflective of the growth in demand for cloud services generally, combined with the pandemic effect that drove many consumers and business increasingly online for all manner of services.
From a data centre operator perspective, the pandemic has had many distinct effects. Not only is there a growth in demand, but it has been combined with limited access for hands-on operations, a general skills shortage and an increased requirement for resilience and availability.
To adapt to the increasing complexities of the industry, data centers and providers are shifting their priorities to meet the unique needs of these facilities who are facing numerous challenges from these growing, complex environments.
The general skills shortage in the technology sector across the region, combined with the desire for increased availability and resilience, is also driving renewed interest in preventative maintenance for the data centre. With the new levels of instrumentation available and greater capacity to monitor and manage infrastructure, preventative maintenance will be more effective than ever in reducing downtime, increasing availability and improving total cost of ownership, allowing operators to best leverage what specialist skills are available.
For the required growth in capacity to be met quickly, modular approaches to data centres are being widely adopted, further reducing the demand for skilled technicians on the ground. It is expected this approach will also deliver benefits for energy efficiency and operational costs while bringing capacity online quicker.
New approaches to enterprise architecture are being adopted too, in the form of cloud-based integrated digital platforms to span silos of data and services. IDC had highlighted siloed initiatives as a potential stumbling block for digital transformation efforts in the region. It had reported that 44% of organisations in the region said their digital transformation initiatives are not integrated, and more than half (51%) highlighted siloed data as a challenge, driven by limited understanding of existing data assets and a lack of enterprise-wide data management. Almost two thirds (62%) of organisations reported concern over siloed technology environments.
To continue to attract investment in the sector, data centre operators will need to have sustainability at the core of activities, with transparency and standardised reporting. A key factor in these sustainability efforts will be energy supply and consumption. Recent information from market data firm MEED Insight has found that so far in 2021, renewable energy project contract awards in the region have surpassed those for conventional power plant projects.
Building on this momentum, it will be possible for data centre operators to engage in power purchase agreements (PPA) for energy from renewable sources. PPAs will contribute significantly to reducing carbon footprints overall, while driving the development of RES generally in the region, with wider benefits for all from an increased supply of clean, renewable energy.
Challenge and opportunity
Despite challenges such as skills shortages, siloed initiatives, and changing patterns of usage and demand, the advent of new technologies, increasing supplies of renewable energy, and targeted investment, mean that the data centre sector in the MENA region will have the resources and the demand to grow significantly while building in the latest technologies to achieve new levels of service and sustainability.
As the market for data services becomes increasingly global, the unique characteristics of the region can build a vibrant industry, leading in digital transformation. The widespread availability of digital platforms and services can spur further economic development and drive innovation generally, ensuring a more prosperous future for all.
Dezeen reports that in the United Kingdom architectural professions top the list of all elite occupations. For millennia, humans make and build the most things in the world, but also contaminate it the most, as it is getting more and more obvious these latter days. Would this impact this article’s assertion if generalised to the rest of the world, mean that those privileged society elites are responsible for what we got now?
This means architectural careers such as architects, town planning officers and technicians rank as number one in the study’s list of the 25 most elite occupations in the UK.
The report also found that class-based exclusion is more prominent in the creative industries than in other sectors of the economy, with other creative occupations ranking in the top 25 including artists, journalists and musicians.
Architecture sector “dominated by the privileged”
“Creative occupations such as architects; journalists and editors; musicians; artists; and producers and directors are, in fact, as dominated by the privileged as doctors, dentists, lawyers and judges,” the report states.
“They are even more elite than management consultants and stockbrokers.”
The report also found that in 2020, those from privileged backgrounds were twice as likely to be employed in the creative industries as those from working-class backgrounds (9.8 per cent and 4.9 per cent respectively.)
The Social Mobility in the Creative Economy report was carried out by Heather Carey, Dave O’Brien and Olivia Gable as part of a three-year programme led by the Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC) exploring class in the creative industries.
In the report, privilege is defined as people who had at least one parent who worked in a “higher or lower managerial, administrative or professional occupation” when they were 14 years old.
This references the National Statistics Socio-Economic Classification (NS-SEC), which clusters various occupations together into eight groups. The report considers those who belong to groups I or II, which includes doctors, CEOs and lawyers, to be privileged.
One in four creative roles filled by working class people
The report also states that in 2020 just one in four people working in the creative industries sector were from lower socio-economic backgrounds and this has remained largely unchanged since 2014.
This means that the UK’s creative industries would need to employ 250,000 more working-class people to become as socio-economically diverse as the rest of the economy.
“To put this figure in perspective, this deficit is greater in scale than the size of the creative workforce in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland combined,” the report states.
As such, the authors of the report have also called on the government and industry to adopt a 10-point plan to establish a socially inclusive creative economy.
Recommendations include prioritising creating fair foundations for success and widening access to higher education, eliminating unpaid internships and accelerating the progression of diverse talent.
Singapore-based architecture firm WOHA, known for its green architecture many years before forests on towers became fashionable, has designed Singapore’s pavilion for the World Expo 2020 in Dubai. The pavilion is a prototype that demonstrates how the built environment can coexist with nature.
Other photos…A year late, the Dubai Expo 2020 opened on 1 October 2021. Among the many architectural highlights is the Singapore pavilion commissioned by Singapore’s Urban Redevelopment Authority from WOHA. In essence, it is a structure designed to welcome visitors to a sustainable oasis in the desert that integrates nature, innovation and architecture. In addition, the structure addresses Singapore’s vision of becoming a city in nature. That is why the pavilion was designed as a prototype to demonstrate how the built environment can coexist with nature. It also reflects Singapore’s history. It is a city-state that manages to thrive in a difficult environment on a limited area, as the pavilion is also located on one of the smallest lots in the Expo. But this is certainly not to the detriment of either the design solutions adopted or its tremendous visual impact. To maximise the usable area of the site, the architects of the WOHA studio, known for its distinct approach to biophilic design and integrated landscape planning, opted to stack multiple levels and functions on top of each other. Thus, visitors are treated to an experiential journey as they make their way along the canopied walkway that meanders through multiple levels of the pavilion, surrounded by verdant palms, trees, shrubs and orchids. The Hanging Garden and three thematic cones all wrapped in vertical greenery add to this immersive, three-dimensional biophilic experience. Next comes the Open Sky Market on the upper level, crowned by a canopy of solar panels that shelters the pavilion from the elements and generates electricity, making the Singapore pavilion a net-zero energy consumer. To reduce the use of energy and other resources, passive strategies such as natural cross-ventilation, shading and planting were implemented to create a comfortable climate for visitors and plants. A solar reverse-osmosis desalination system will meet all of its water needs. The Singapore Pavilion also houses more than 170 varieties of plants that will grow during the Expo period. As well as providing a wonderful immersive experience, the plants provide measurable ecosystem services such as reducing solar heat, sequestrating greenhouse gases, reducing other pollutants such as PM10 particles, producing oxygen, reclaiming rainwater and providing habitats for animals. By means of exhibitions and experiences, the Singapore pavilion investigates how we can build resilient, self-sufficient, biophilic, attractive yet highly functional structures that coexist with nature. These are flexible solutions in that these design strategies can be adapted to different climates and geographies, and even be scaled up to district or even city level. As the architects of WOHA say: “Our climate crisis shows us that the impact of human actions on the planet cannot be ignored, and that urgent action needs to be taken. This reinforces the aspirations of the SG Pavilion: to design a different future and to create a sustainable, resilient environment in which humans coexist with nature.”
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