South Africa is increasingly becoming a less friendly place to do business in when compared with its emerging market peers.
The World Bank's Doing Business 2016 report, released this week, revealed that the country fell four places to 73 in the rankings on ease of doing business.
For probably the first time, it is now easier to run a business in Botswana than in South Africa (ranked 72nd). The island of Mauritius (32nd) tops the continent.
This is worrying, more so when coupled with the country's deteriorating entrepreneurship rate (see this earlier post).
In contrast it's now easier to run a business in Russia than in South Africa. Eight years ago it was nearly as hard to run a business in Russia as in legendary red tape champions India and Brazil.
The World Bank said Russia rose 11 places because of reforms addressing the registration of property, power supply reliability, and the transparency of electricity tariffs, among other measures (The big jump in ratings raised Russia from 62nd place worldwide to 51st place - just shy of President Vladimir Putin's goal of raising Russia ranking to 50 by 2015.)
On the other hand Chile has made significant progress – slashing the time it takes to start a business from 40 days to 5.5 days over the same period. Colombia has cut it from 40 days to 11 days, Georgia from 11 to 2 days, Russia from 29 days to 11 days and Malaysia from 31 days to 7 days.
The only country to perform worse in this regard is Brazil – which has dropped from 122 to 174 (after hitting 90 in 2012). Chile has also slid back. After climbing from 69 in 2008 to 22 in 2014, it has fallen to 62. The best performer continues to be Georgia, ranked sixth.
In contrast Brazil continues to be an outlier, with issues of tax consuming a massive 2,600 hours a year for mid-size businesses.
How fair are they?
But the World Bank has faced a barrage of criticism of recent over the rankings.
The Financial Times noted this week that in many ways they favour authoritarian regimes which have the capacity to pass regulations quickly through rubber-stamp parliaments over democratically elected ones. In May, for example, Putin signed a decree to get the country to number 20 on the rankings.
Yet none the less the South African government seems to be taking action - at least in response to slowdown of growth (the economy is set to grow at just 1.5% this year).
The Presidency is set to establish an investment task team, as part of a nine-point plan mooted by South African president Jacob Zuma earlier this year to tackle low growth. It will look at how to reduce red tape and encourage more investment.
In addition, the Department of Trade and Industry has begun the process of setting up an investment clearing house which will take a more focused approach to attracting and retaining investors in the country.
A more focused approach to trimming red tape and enabling the private sector is what's needed. But will it happen?
Timm is a South African who writes on small business. He is currently based in Cape Town, South Africa. Follow Small Business Insight on Twitter at @Smallbinsight and on Facebook.
Stephen Timm is a