CHILE (Conspiracy Talk News) – After the organization’s chief economist, Paul Romer , revealed on Friday that its business competitiveness index Doing Business has been managed to the detriment of Chile, the government of Michelle Bachelet raised a protest.
“This is an immorality rarely seen, we hope that the correction of the index is quick, but the damage is already done ,” Chilean Economy Minister Jorge Rodríguez Grossi said in a statement.
And it is that the Doing Business index negatively qualified Chile in the last four years, the same as Bachelet’s mandate , while in the government of Sebastián Piñera (2010-2014) the South American country had positive results.
The controversy originated after Romer revealed to The Wall Street Journal that there were changes in the methodology of Doing Business , which rates the ease offered by 190 countries to do business, which affected the South American country.
“I want to personally apologise to Chile and to any other country in which we convey the wrong impression,” Romer said.
The ranking has the potential to discourage investments, both domestic and foreign, given that large companies take it as a reference every year to evaluate the opening of businesses.
The changes in the methodologies of the index that occurred, at least in the last four years, are the reason why Chile has fluctuated between the 25th place and the 57th since 2006 , according to Romer’s explanation.
In the 2017 report, the country was ranked 57th, after it fell progressively from 34 in 2014, 41 in 2015 and 48 in 2016, the same years as the second Bachelet government.
The changes were particularly negative for Chile, since “possibly” they were “contaminated by personal political motivations” in the World Bank, according to Romer.
The index evaluates key aspects to start businesses in 190 countries, such as the number of days it takes a company to complete all the opening procedures, how easy it is to obtain permits, or the ease of making tax payments.
Indicators added or eliminated in the last four years, the period audited by Romer, led to Chile and other countries having negative ratings.
An example is the ease to comply with tax payments that companies have.
In 2015, Chile was in 33rd place in the world in this line, but the following year it fell to 120th place after the World Bank added a new metric on how long it takes companies to complete their tax payment process, if the country prolongs the audits or takes to much time to make reimbursements.
“Based on the things they were measuring before, business conditions did not get worse in Chile under the Bachelet government, ” Romer said, adding that this may have been politically motivated.
Who is it pointed to?
The Chilean economist Augusto López-Claros was the director of the group that developed the index since 2003.
Although this year he is on leave at the World Bank, he rejected that the changes are aimed to harm any country.
All the changes were made, he said, according to an “extensive review” internal and external, to the knowledge of the countries evaluated.
“Preliminary rounds of the new data collected were shared to give the opportunity to comment and, in general, the whole process took place in a context of transparency and openness,” Lopez-Claros told The Wall Street Journal.
After the controversy, the World Bank issued a statement acknowledging that there are changes in methodologies, but in order to “refine and strengthen them.”
“It is important to note that we treat all countries equally in our research , and the indicators and methodology of Doing Business are designed with no country in mind, but for the overall business climate to be improved,” the agency said.
He also announced that there will be an external review of Chile’s indicators following Romer’s comments on Chile.
The director was responsible for this possible affectation: ” It was my fault because we did not make things clear enough” .
“It’s a scandal”
For the Chilean economy minister Rodríguez Grossi, Romer’s explanation is “very frank and honest, but it reveals a scandal”.
“What it points out is that it would have been manipulated by the economist in charge of its construction (the Chilean Augusto Lopez-Claro), in order to show an economic deterioration during the government of President Bachelet , with basically political intentions” , he pointed.
However, Augusto López-Claros attributes that Chile has been left behind by countries in the region such as Mexico due to the lack of important reforms to benefit its business environment.
Romer assured that the World Bank will do the calculations of the ranking and the results may show significant changes for Chile and other countries.