The indicators presented and analyzed in Doing Business measure business regulation and the protection of property rights—and their effect on businesses, especially small and medium-size domestic firms. First, the indicators document the complexity of regulation, such as the number of procedures to start a business or to register a transfer of commercial property. Second, they gauge the time and cost to achieve a regulatory goal or comply with regulation, such as the time and cost to enforce a contract, go through bankruptcy or trade across borders. Third, they measure the extent of legal protections of property, for example, the protections of minority investors against looting by company directors or the range of assets that can be used as collateral according to secured transactions laws. Fourth, a set of indicators documents the tax burden on businesses. Finally, a set of data covers different aspects of employment regulation. The 11 sets of indicators measured in Doing Business were added over time, and the sample of economies and cities expanded (table 1).
The Doing Business data are collected in a standardized way. To start, the Doing Business team, with academic advisers, designs a questionnaire. The questionnaire uses a simple business case to ensure comparability across economies and over time—with assumptions about the legal form of the business, its size, its location and the nature of its operations. Questionnaires are administered to more than 12,500 local experts, including lawyers, business consultants, accountants, freight forwarders, government officials and other professionals routinely administering or advising on legal and regulatory requirements (table 2). These experts have several rounds of interaction with the Doing Business team, involving conference calls, written correspondence and visits by the team. For Doing Business 2018 team members visited 26economies to verify data and recruit respondents. The data from questionnaires are subjected to numerous rounds of verification, leading to revisions or expansions of the information collected.
The Doing Business methodology offers several advantages. It is transparent, using factual information about what laws and regulations say and allowing multiple interactions with local respondents to clarify potential misinterpretations of questions. Having representative samples of respondents is not an issue; Doing Business is not a statistical survey, and the texts of the relevant laws and regulations are collected and answers checked for accuracy. The methodology is inexpensive and easily replicable, so data can be collected in a large sample of economies. Because standard assumptions are used in the data collection, comparisons and benchmarks are valid across economies. Finally, the data not only highlight the extent of specific regulatory obstacles to business but also identify their source and point to what might be reformed. Doing Business 2018 has no major methodological change at the indicators level.
Limits to what is measured
The Doing Business methodology has five limitations that should be considered when interpreting the data. First, for most economies the collected data refer to businesses in the largest business city (which in some economies differs from the capital) and may not be representative of regulation in other parts of the economy. (The exceptions are 11 economies with a population of more than 100 million as of 2013, where Doing Business now also collects data for the second largest business city). To address this limitation, subnational Doing Business indicators were created. Second, the data often focus on a specific business form—generally a limited liability company (or its legal equivalent) of a specified size—and may not be representative of the regulation on other businesses (for example, sole proprietorships). Third, transactions described in a standardized case scenario refer to a specific set of issues and may not represent the full set of issues that a business encounters. Fourth, the measures of time involve an element of judgment by the expert respondents. When sources indicate different estimates, the time indicators reported in Doing Business represent the median values of several responses given under the assumptions of the standardized case.