The World Bank on Thursday said it is halting publication of its flagship report on business competitiveness to investigate data irregularities.
Data about four countries—China, Azerbaijan, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia—appeared to have been inappropriately altered, according to a person with knowledge of the decision. The move renewed concerns first raised two years ago by the World Bank’s chief economist that the report, called “Doing Business,” was vulnerable to manipulation.
The report has become the premier international ranking of the business environment in different countries. Its annual publication draws headlines around the world about the standing of individual countries, and it has been cited as a powerful motivator for governments to jockey for higher rankings by improving their regulatory environment.
Countries can improve their rankings by reducing bureaucracy around starting businesses, easing their permitting process, and expanding access to electricity among other measures.
The World Bank said in a statement that it is beginning a systematic review of the data, launching an independent audit of the process, and that it would correct the data.