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LONDON (Reuters) - An independent panel set up by the World Bank to look at the validity of one of its highest profile country rankings said on Monday the Bank should stop producing it because it may be misleading.
The Bank's annual "Doing Business" report judges 185 countries on 10 criteria and compiles an index on the ease of doing business, assigning each country a rank. The rankings can carry huge weight with governments.
But a panel initiated by the Bank's new president, Jim Yong Kim, found that the rankings could too easily be affected by small factors and were sometimes not objective.
"The panel believes the Bank should make a clean break with this practice," it said in a report. The panel was headed by South Africa's planning minister Trevor Manuel.
"It is important to remember that the (Doing Business) report is intended to be a pure knowledge project. As such, its role is to inform policy, not to prescribe it or outline a normative position, which the rankings to some extent do," the report added
Singapore topped last year's rankings while Central African Republic was bottom. Russian President Vladimir Putin last year declared a policy objective of raising Russia's ranking to 20th by 2018 from the current 120th place.
According to several sources, China has pushed for modifying the report and getting rid of the ratings system, arguing that the World Bank should not rank its members.
China was ranked number 91 in the most recent report, prompting suspicions that its opposition was motivated by the low ranking.
Instead of a ranking, the panel suggested assigning scores for each of the indicators for each country.
(Reporting by Sujata Rao; Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)