The 25 Easiest Places in the World to Do Business

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Our world does seem small in some ways. Thanks to trans-Atlantic flights, you can have breakfast in London and make it to New York by lunchtime.

If you dream of starting a business abroad or adding an international chapter to your company, fulfilling your dream begins with old-fashioned research. The World Bank, which helps developing countries with financial and technical assistance, recently published its annual Doing Business report, a ranking of the best countries for doing business. The 2019 list includes nations good at cutting through red tape and smoothing the path for starting and operating a company locally.

The World Bank’s ease of doing business scores and rankings take into account gaps between an economy’s performance and the standard best practices and ease of scaling hurdles such as:

  • Incorporating a business, getting building permits and obtaining electricity
  • Obtaining credit, trading across borders, paying taxes and enforcing contracts
  • Finding training opportunities

Here’s a look at the World Bank’s top 25 countries for the ease of starting and operating a business.

25. Azerbaijan

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2019 Doing Business score: 78.64

2018 Doing Business score: 71.54

Located at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, Azerbaijan has improved lately in numerous areas ranked by the World Bank, including the ease of paying taxes and registering property. The country scored extremely high — ranking No. 2 overall — for protecting minority investors.

24. Germany

Business man in a loft looking at skyline of Berlin in Germany
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2019 Doing Business score: 78.90

2018 Doing Business score: 78.90

While Germany’s score didn’t change from 2018, it didn’t really need to, staying comfortably in the top 25. The longtime economic powerhouse kept consistent scores almost across the board, improving a bit as far as dealing with construction permits and starting a business.

23. Republic of Ireland

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2019 Doing Business score: 78.91

2018 Doing Business score: 79.42

Scenic Ireland was once known as the Celtic Tiger for its recent period of rapid real economic growth fueled by foreign direct investment. That may have cooled, but you’ll still find Ireland sitting pretty in the top 25, with its 2019 score only slightly lower than in 2018. One area where Ireland excels? The ease of the never fun, but necessary act of paying one’s taxes. Erin go bragh!

22. Canada

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2019 Doing Business score: 79.26

2018 Doing Business score: 78.88

O Canada! The United States’ northern neighbor improved its Doing Business score for 2019, thanks in part to increased ease in enforcing contracts and smaller improvements regarding with construction permits and getting electricity.

21. Iceland

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2019 Doing Business score: 79.35

2018 Doing Business score: 79.30

Breathtaking Iceland has become a resurgent travel destination lately, thanks in part to Icelandair allowing stopovers of up to seven days for travelers who might otherwise just change planes at the Reykjavik airport. It’s also a good place to stay longer and do business, according to the World Bank.

20. Mauritius

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2019 Doing Business score: 79.58

2018 Doing Business score: 78.29

Mauritius, an African island nation located in the Indian Ocean, may be one of the less-familiar countries on the World Bank’s list. But it’s climbing up in the rankings, improving in almost every category from 2018 to 2019. Scores have especially risen for protecting minority investors, starting a business and ease of paying taxes.

19. Latvia

Riga, Latvia bicycle rider sunset evening
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2019 Doing Business score: 79.59

2018 Doing Business score: 79.26

Latvia is another country that’s slowly but surely making business easier to transact. The European country has seen positive reforms in the areas of getting electricity and resolving insolvency, as well as smaller gains in other areas.

18. Australia

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2019 Doing Business score: 80.13

2018 Doing Business score: 80.14

Multi-faceted Australia’s score went down a hair this year, thanks primarily to lower scores in the areas of registering property and trading across borders. But the Land Down Under still earns a place in the top 20.

17. Finland

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2019 Doing Business score: 80.35

2018 Doing Business score: 80.30

Picturesque Finland’s score went up a bit, leaving the Nordic county highly ranked. It improved most in the ease of paying taxes, which in part reflects enhancements to its electronic systems.

16. Estonia

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2019 Doing Business score: 80.50

2018 Doing Business score: 80.49

Estonia held fairly steady from 2018 to 2019, improving slightly in various areas, including ease of starting a business and dealing with construction permits.

15. Malaysia

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2019 Doing Business score: 80.60

2018 Doing Business score: 78.03

Malaysia was one of two countries moving into the top 20 this year; the other was the United Arab Emirates. Malaysia did so thanks to a numerous reforms, leading to improvement in its score for the ease of doing business. According to the report, Malaysia made property transfers faster by decentralizing the consent required to transfer properties.

14. Lithuania

Aerial Panorama of Port of Klaipeda, Lithuania.
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2019 Doing Business score: 80.83

2018 Doing Business score: 80.54

Lithuania boosted its score by strengthening minority investor protections, making exporting easier by enhancing automated systems and changing labor legislation.

13. Taiwan

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2019 Doing Business score: 80.90

2018 Doing Business score: 80.66

Taiwan improved in several areas, including strengthening minority investor protections and making dealing with construction permits less time-consuming.

12. Sweden

food market Ostermalmtorg in Stockholm, Sweden. Woman and farm seller
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2019 Doing Business score: 81.27

2018 Doing Business score: 81.27

Sweden kept its strong overall score unchanged. Small improvements in the ease of starting a business and dealing with construction permits were offset by a drop in the score for resolving insolvencies.

11. United Arab Emirates

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2019 Doing Business score: 81.28

2018 Doing Business score: 78.91

The United Arab Emirates vaulted into the top 20 for the first time this year. It has the highest-ranking economy in the Middle East and North Africa region, boosted by reforms in four areas. The World Bank says the U.A.E. made getting electricity easier by eliminating some costs for commercial and industrial connections. It also made starting a business easier by improving online registration and strengthening access to credit.

10. Macedonia

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2019 Doing Business score: 81.55

2018 Doing Business score: 81.23

The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia lifted its score, in part by making the construction permit process less costly by reducing land-development fees.

9. United Kingdom

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2019 Doing Business score: 82.65

2018 Doing Business score: 82.32

The United Kingdom, which includes England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, faces an enormous challenge in 2019. Brexit (Britain + exit), the planned British withdrawal from the European Union following a controversial 2016 national referendum, could change many things regarding the world of business in the U.K. For now, however, it remains in the World Bank’s top 10. According to the World Bank report, the U.K. has made getting electricity quicker and easier by implementing several initiatives to expedite the external connection work performed by subcontractors.

8. United States

Young businessman business woman talking discussing documents table holding papers
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2019 Doing Business score: 82.75

2018 Doing Business score: 82.76

The United States dropped two spots this year, from sixth to eighth place on the list. As recently as 2013, the U.S. was in fourth place. The U.S. ranked high for categories involving the ease of enforcing contracts, getting credit and resolving bankruptcies. It didn’t do as well as far as the ease of starting a business, getting electricity and paying taxes.

7. Norway

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2019 Doing Business score: 82.95

2018 Doing Business score: 82.70

Norway’s score bumped up a quarter-point this year. The country amended legislation to allow for night work until 11 p.m., providing that an employer and employee enter into a written agreement.

6. Georgia

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2019 Doing Business score: 83.28

2018 Doing Business score: 82.80

Georgia (along with Kosovo and Moldova) is one of three lower-middle-income economies on this list, and it is by far the highest-ranked of the three. Once a republic of the former Soviet Union, Georgia is strategically located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe. Georgia earned points with the World Bank for enhancing its existing one-stop shop for business incorporation, which allows entrepreneurs to start a company through a single procedure.

5. Republic of Korea

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2019 Doing Business score: 84.14

2018 Doing Business score: 84.15

South Korea scores high for enforcing contracts and the ease of getting electricity. It gained points, also, on how it deals with construction permits.

4. Hong Kong

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2019 Doing Business score: 84.22

2018 Doing Business score: 84.18

No. 4 Hong Kong tops the rankings for how it processes construction permits and the ease of paying taxes. It scores high in other areas as well.

3. Denmark

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2019 Doing Business score: 84.64

2018 Doing Business score: 84.05

Denmark jumped more than half a point in the rankings, making the biggest leap of any nation in the top 10. The Nordic country made enforcing contracts easier by introducing an electronic case management system.

2. Singapore

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2019 Doing Business score: 85.24

2018 Doing Business score: 84.97

No. 2 on this list, Singapore exemplifies a business-friendly environment, the report says. It’s ranked No. 1 overall for enforcing contracts. It also ranks highly for making starting a business easy and for protecting minority investors.

1. New Zealand

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2019 Doing Business score: 86.59

2018 Doing Business score: 86.59

Topping the list is Middle-Earth — whoops, we mean New Zealand. The land where the “Lord of the Rings” movies are set is strikingly lovely. But businesspeople are more about habits than Hobbits, and New Zealand exemplifies a business-friendly environment, says the World Bank. Kudos to the Kiwis! It takes only a few hours to set up a business in this environment.

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