The Doing Business Report, one of the World Bank's most important regular reports, has been manipulated under pressure from the World Bank leadership to give China better places in the country rankings.

The current head of the International Monetary Fund, Kristalina Georgiewa, played a central role as the then chief executive of the World Bank.

This emerges from an investigation report by the law firm WilmerHale, which the World Bank has now published.

Winand von Petersdorff-Campen

Business correspondent in Washington.

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In addition to Georgieva, the lawyers identified the then World Bank President Jim Yong Kim as the puller of the manipulation. In its doing business report, the World Bank evaluates the economic friendliness of countries according to various criteria such as bureaucratic obstacles to business start-ups, legal security or energy supply and assigns corresponding rankings. In addition to the China ranking, the numbers of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were manipulated upwards and the ranking of Azerbaijan was deliberately worsened, although it was not possible to prove that the World Bank leadership was involved.  

According to the investigation report, the Chinese leadership was dissatisfied with its 78th place at the time for 2017. Chinese officials put pressure on World Bank leadership, criticizing that progress had not been properly recognized. In the draft of the report for 2018, China only came in 85th. Kim and Georgieva apparently found this to be extremely sensitive at a time when the World Bank was campaigning for a capital increase and therefore did not want to alienate powerful countries as allies.

Kim's assistants were not satisfied with the editorial team pointing out that China had made progress, but that other countries with even greater reform successes had passed the country. Kim and his co-workers discussed with the authors of the report ways of putting the country in a better light, including by including Hong Kong and Taiwan. According to the report, Georgiewa later took on the task of improving the ranking. With the authors, she found a solution that would at least bring China back up to its old rank of 78. 

The World Bank is now finally discontinuing the report after putting it on hold in June 2020. At that time, inconsistencies in the data had been reported internally. Because internal reports also pointed to misconduct by employees and former management staff of the World Bank, the Ethics Committee of the World Bank entrusted the law firm WilmerHale to track down any misconduct in the creation of the report. A World Bank spokesman refused to comment: "The report speaks for itself."