The Bank’s Ease of Doing Business report, which measures how states facilitate investors and commerce, said the tiny central African state was now among the giants of economic reform globally.
“We’re delighted to be amongst the top reformers in the world, having moved up 13 places this year, on top of having moved up eight places last year,” said the country’s Second Vice President Gervais Rufyikiri to a visiting journalist.
Burundi was ranked 159th. Mauritius and South Africa were the best-ranked African economies at 19 and 39 respectively. The Central African Republic was 185th and last.
TradeMark East Africa, a donor-funded organisation helping East African states to modernise their trade systems, has supported the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business work with the Government of Burundi, and is equally pleased with progress.
“This is a thoroughly justified honour. It rewards the way Burundi has rebuilt its tax system, is redesigning its physical borders with its neighbours, and is stripping away red tape to win foreign investment. This helps the economy and its people to prosper,” said Anthe Vrijlandt, TradeMark’s Country Director in Burundi.
With TradeMark East Africa’s assistance, Burundi has also established a new national revenue authority, the Office Burundais de Recettes (OBR). OBR has implemented reforms in tax administration, and streamlined border crossing for traders, which together played a big role in Burundi’s improved ranking.
The OBR doubled tax revenue since it came into operation in 2009. It continues to increase the amount of tax the government receives and the number of people who pay it, through modern, computerised accounting and over-the-counter services. With the additional revenue, more than 40,000 more Burundian patients now receive healthcare services each month.
“It’s terrific to see Burundi getting the recognition it deserves for the reforms it has undertaken and is continuing to undertake,” commented OBR’s Commissioner-General Kieran Holmes. “All this will make Burundi a much more exciting place for foreign investors, and creates a transparent and level playing field.”
Top-to-bottom reform of a corrupt and inefficient tax system is a major achievement in a country until recently torn apart by war and instability. OBR has eliminated duplication between agencies and has put the taxation system under a single roof. This has created much more transparency, which the government says will provide the cornerstone on which more public investment (including modern health centres, hospitals and a dam) will be built.
Other reforms include bilateral agreements with all Burundi’s neighbours to establish one-stop-border posts. These will eliminate time-wasting duplication, and speed up commerce between the five East African Community States, boosting prosperity in the region.