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Assembling International Competitiveness: The Republic of Georgia, USAID, and the Doing Business Project

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abstract

Global indices of economic competitiveness, such as the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business Index (EDBI), score and rank states according to the quality of local business regulations. Quantifying and indexing regulatory quality to a singular ranking constructs a “best practice” model that characterizes regulation in the highest-ranked states. States that outcompete others in transferring regulatory best practices from higher-ranked states are rewarded with an improved international reputation for having investor-friendly policies. By helping to attract the interest of foreign investors, the production of higher competitiveness rankings serves as an extraterritorial state strategy for gaining from globalization. This article details the reform strategy that was used to produce the (post-Soviet) Republic of Georgia's 2006–2009 vault up the EDBI rankings. These higher rankings were the centerpiece of an investment-promotion campaign that accompanied strong inflows of foreign direct investment. Making full use of EDBI as a strategic resource for promoting increased foreign investment involved the composition of an institutional assemblage of the Georgian government, USAID, and the World Bank's Doing Business project. Ethnographic research revealed how power geometries emerged among the assembled organizations to enable the transfer of EDBI's best practice regulations in some areas, and to impede it in others. The case study reveals how limits to policy transfer are created by geographic context and how EDBI rankings can be exploited to obfuscate problematic business conditions that are overlooked by its measurement methodology.

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