TMF Group, a leading provider of compliance and administrative services, has launched the tenth edition of its Global Business Complexity Index (GBCI).
The comprehensive report analyses 78 jurisdictions (77 in 2022), which account for 92% of the world’s total GDP and 95% of net global FDI flows. It evaluates nearly 300 annually tracked indicators, presenting data on critical aspects in conducting business involving legislation, compliance, accounting procedures, tax regimes, human resources (HR) and payroll processes.
Indonesia leads the rankings as the most complex jurisdiction in APAC (11th vs 6th in 2022 globally), followed by mainland China (15th), South Korea (16th), Malaysia (21st) and the Philippines (31st). This is only the second time in ten years that there are no APAC countries in the ten most complex jurisdictions.
On the other hand, India (33rd) has improved its position tremendously this year through reforming legislation, along with liberalising guidelines and regulations, to reduce the compliance burden. In Vietnam (46th), for example, most authorities have introduced official online systems to update new regulations and best practice.
On the other end of spectrum, Hong Kong (74th) featured in the ten least complex jurisdictions for three years in a row. Its efforts to prioritise international alignment and simplify business processes have been fruitful. It remains a favourable jurisdiction to do business in terms of its infrastructure and low tax rates. Despite its simplicity, business owners in Hong Kong still deal with strict due diligence checks and know your customer (KYC) requirements.
Shagun Kumar, TMF Group’s Head of APAC, said: “The tenth edition of our Global Business Complexity Index highlights diverse levels of complexity across the APAC region. Hong Kong and Australia manage to maintain their positions among the least complex jurisdictions this year. While challenges are still very present in countries like Indonesia and mainland China, opportunities for international businesses are still up for grabs. India’s formula of ‘aiming for minimum government and maximum governance’ definitely merits attention. Overall APAC remains the growth engine for most of our global clients: our GBCI and its findings are a very useful guide for companies willing to navigate and invest in the APAC region in a more aware manner“.
In addition to analysing 78 locations, the report identifies three key themes that shape the global business landscape and regulatory environment:
GEOPOLITICAL AND ECONOMIC TURBULENCE
The report highlights how geopolitical challenges and global economic factors are impacting companies’ expansion plans and business operations. With inflation taking place, employees are seeking additional financial support from their employers, ultimately causing increased salary demands. This is particularly the case in APAC where 93% of jurisdictions surveyed are noting the trend of employees asking for better financial packages.
Additionally, Vietnam’s 2023 GDP growth is currently forecasted at 6.5% which is lower than 2022 (8.02%). This is due to an expected weakened global demand in major export markets, likely resulting from geopolitical tensions. The same goes for Thailand, with global headwinds slowing growth, despite the fast recovery from Covid-19.
GLOBAL COMPLIANCE CHALLENGES
To demonstrate that the impacts of the war, know your customer (KYC) checks in Australia and Malaysia have become more indepth due to the introduction of sanctions against Russian businesses and individuals.
However, it can also drive the attractiveness of jurisdictions, particularly for private wealth and family office (PWFO) individuals who are seeking safety and security. For instance, in Singapore, a strong and stable regulatory framework and political stability are the key factors that attract foreign investments. Singapore also offers attractive tax incentive schemes that appeal to high-net-worth individuals.
ENVIRONMENTAL, SOCIAL AND GOVERNANCE (ESG) CONSIDERATIONS
The importance and requirements for ESG reporting are becoming more prominent, therefore, many governments and authorities have made efforts to lead the way in holding businesses to account in reducing their carbon footprint. In Malaysia, the government’s ambition to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 is particularly progressive relative to other ASEAN countries. Companies in Malaysia are actively pursuing ESG programmes, and multinational corporations have energy consumption as a key focus in ESG commitments.
In India, our experts report that priority players stress their ESG parameters, as it makes the investments more lucrative for global investors. While in Hong Kong, an amended circular came into effect in January 2022, providing guidance to asset managers on enhanced disclosure expectations for funds which incorporate ESG factors as a key investment objective.
Top and bottom ten (1= most complex, 78= least complex)
71 New Zealand
72 United Kingdom
73 British Virgin Islands
74 Hong Kong
75 The Netherlands
78 Cayman Islands
SOURCE: TMF Group