TOKYO -- Asia's emerging economies, including Thailand and India, have become significantly more business-friendly, according to this year's Ease of Doing Business Ranking published by the World Bank on Tuesday.
Singapore, South Korea and Hong Kong maintained their positions in the global top five in the latest survey, eclipsing larger economies such as the U.S., Japan and Europe. The results point to intensifying competition among Asian countries to attract foreign investment.
The World Bank's annual report ranks 190 economies in 11 categories, including the ease of starting a business, and the ease and cost of getting connected to the electrical grid and registering property.
New Zealand came in first in the 2018 ranking, followed by Singapore and Denmark. The top three places are unchanged from a year ago.
Emerging economies leaped in the rankings. Thailand, for example, jumped 20 spots from 46th to 26th, overtaking Japan, which held steady in 34th place.
The World Bank noted that Thailand "made starting a business easier by abolishing the requirement to obtain a company's seal," and "strengthened access to credit by adopting new legislation that broadens the scope of assets that can be used as collateral."
Vietnam also moved up, rising from 82nd in the 2017 survey to 68th, which was higher than China's 78th place. The Southeast Asian country "made exporting and importing easier by upgrading the automated cargo clearance system and extending the operating hours of the customs department," the report said.
India, still ranked low at 100th, although it rose 30 places. "India reduced the number of procedures and time required to obtain a building permit by implementing an online system," the report pointed out.
Meanwhile, Singapore, South Korea and Hong Kong, now regularly near the top, were again in a tight race for the easiest place to do business. Hong Kong fell one spot as it "made starting a business more expensive by reintroducing the business registration fee." South Korea moved up as a result.
Hong Kong took issue with the World Bank finding, saying in a statement on Wednesday, "The government waived the business registration fee in 2016-17 as a one-off relief measure to support enterprises. The business registration fee was merely reverted to the normal level on April 1, 2017, which was still a low level."
Singapore "made exporting and importing easier by improving infrastructure and electronic equipment at the port," but failed to catch New Zealand.