The United Arab Emirates (UAE) took the top spot in the Middle East in the 2017 Index of Economic Freedom, released by the US-based Heritage Foundation. It was ranked 8th globally on the list.
Hong Kong topped the list, while Singapore and New Zealand are in the second and third positions. Others in the top 10 are: Switzerland (4th), Australia (5th), Estonia (6th), Canada (7th), UAE (8th), Ireland (9) and Chile (10th).
The UK is placed in the 12th position, while the US took the 17th rank.
Among the GCC countries, Qatar was at 29th ranking on the list; Bahrain 44th; Kuwait 61st; Saudi Arabia 64th and Oman 82nd.
The Index analyses economic policy developments in 186 countries. Countries are graded and ranked on 12 measures of economic freedom that evaluate the rule of law, government size, regulatory efficiency, and the openness of markets.
Per capita incomes are much higher in countries that are more economically free. Economies rated “free” or “mostly free” in the 2017 Index generate incomes that are more than double the average levels in other countries and more than five times higher than the incomes of people living in countries with “repressed” economies.
Not only are higher levels of economic freedom associated with higher per capita incomes, but greater economic freedom is also strongly correlated to overall well-being, taking into account such factors as health, education, environment, innovation, societal progress, and democratic governance.
No matter what their existing level of development may be, countries can get an immediate boost in their economic growth by implementing steps to increase economic freedom through policies that reduce taxes, rationalise the regulatory environment, open the economy to greater competition, and fight corruption.
In the 2017 Index, 103 countries, most of which are less developed or emerging economies, showed advances in economic freedom. Remarkably, 49 countries achieved their highest economic freedom scores ever. Two large economies (China and Russia) are included in this group.
While two countries (Mauritius and the UK) recorded no change in score, 73 experienced declines in economic freedom. Sixteen of these 73 countries, including notably the Bahamas, Bahrain, El Salvador, Pakistan, Venezuela, and the US recorded their lowest economic freedom scores ever, the Foundation said.
The Asia–Pacific region is home to nine of the 20 most improved countries: Fiji, Kiribati, Kazakhstan, China, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Tajikistan, and the Solomon Islands all recorded score gains of four points or more. On the other hand, Sub-Saharan Africa has the most countries (Cabo Verde, Djibouti, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, The Gambia, and Madagascar) recording notable score declines, followed by the Americas (Barbados, the Bahamas, Venezuela, Suriname, Saint Lucia, and Brazil).
Of the 180 economies whose economic freedom has been graded and ranked in the 2017 Index, only five (Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Switzerland, and Australia) have sustained very high freedom scores of 80 or more, putting them in the ranks of the economically “free.”
A further 29 countries, including Chile, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, Georgia, the US, and Mauritius, have been rated as “mostly free” economies with scores between 70 and 80.
A total of 92 economies, just over half of those graded in the 2017 Index, have earned a designation of “moderately free” or better. These economies provide institutional environments in which individuals and private enterprises benefit from at least a moderate degree of economic freedom in the pursuit of greater competitiveness, growth, and prosperity.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, nearly half of the countries graded in the Index—88 economies—have registered economic freedom scores below 60. Of those economies, 65 are considered “mostly unfree” (scores of 50–60), and 23 are considered “repressed” (scores below 50).
Economic freedom is about much more than a business environment in which entrepreneurship and prosperity can flourish.
With its far-reaching impacts on various aspects of human development, economic freedom empowers people, unleashes powerful forces of choice and opportunity, gives nourishment to other liberties, and improves the overall quality of life, the Foundation said.
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