The World Bank’s famous and fought-over index never really measured what it purported to measure, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that countries tried to game the system.
For many of us, it’s hard to imagine a world without the World Bank’s “Ease of Doing Business” index. Over the past two decades, the ranking of how friendly countries were to investors became indispensable to columnists, economists and emerging-market politicians. But the annual report is now dead, following an external investigation of apparent “data irregularities” in the rankings.
Its demise is, in fact, a blessing. The index and accompanying report — and, indeed, the entire mindset from which they sprang — seem like relics of a bygone age. The late 1990s and early 2000s, when they were born, represented the high point of a trend in economics associated most of all with the Harvard economist Andrei Shleifer and his collaborators, in which official constraints on entrepreneurship and competition were thought to offer broad insights into societies, economies and growth.
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