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Reforming the business environment is high on the agenda of the international donor community. The Doing Business reports suggest that excessive regulation is a key obstacle to private sector development. Simplification of the regulatory business environment is thus recommended
as the most important reform for private sector development. Countries achieve the highest score on seven out of ten Doing Business Indicators if they do not regulate at all. Furthermore, it is alleged that reforms can be achieved with the stroke of a minister's pen. This ignores important
benefits of regulation and underestimates the difficulties of institutional change. This article argues that the real challenge is to define appropriate levels of regulation, which differ across countries, regions and sectors, and to make governments accountable for services – rather
than abolishing them altogether.