Bahrain is still the most economically free nation in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, according to the 2003 Index of Economic Freedom recently released by American think tank the Heritage Foundation, and the Wall Street Journal. The tiny Gulf monarchy is ranked 16th freest economy among 161 countries in the world.
The 2003 index identified Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia as "mostly free" economies, while Lebanon, Algeria, Egypt, Yemen and Syria were grouped in the "mostly unfree" category. Iran and Libya were classified "repressed" economies and Iraq remained unranked altogether due to insufficient data.
The index’s author, Robert Pollack, noted Qatar's ruler, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, as leading bold political and economic reforms. "He has liberalized the political system; given women the right to vote; created a democratically elected Municipal Council," the index said.
The think tank asserted that the key to economic freedom lays in the region’s ability to uphold the rule of law. Problems of bureaucracy, corruption and uncertainty constitute the major impediments do developing a prosperous business environment in the MENA countries.
The index ranks countries worldwide according to ten factors—trade policy, fiscal burden of government, government intervention in the economy, monetary policy, capital flows and foreign investment, banking and finance, wages and prices, property rights, regulation and black market. A systematic analysis of these factors continues to demonstrate that countries with the highest levels of economic freedom also have the highest living standards, according to the Heritage Foundation.
Based on the UN’s Arab Human Development Report, the index asserted that with a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $531 billion in 1999, the combined production capacity of the 280 million citizens of the Arab League was less than that of Spain alone. The income of the average Arab citizen was just 14 percent of the average citizen of an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) country. — (menareport.com)
© 2002 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )