SEVERAL economies in the Asia Pacific are some of the freest on the planet according to an influential ranking.
The 2018 Index of Economic Freedom released by Washington, D.C.-based conservative policy thinktank The Heritage Foundation, found that numerous countries in the region ranked the best in terms of rule of law, government size, regulatory efficiency and open markets.
Financial capital Hong Kong was recognised as the most economically free place in the world, followed by its regional rival Singapore and New Zealand.
“An exceptionally competitive financial and business hub, Hong Kong remains one of the world’s most resilient economies,” said Heritage.
“A high-quality legal framework provides effective protection of property rights and strongly supports the rule of law. There is little tolerance for corruption, and a high degree of transparency enhances government integrity.”
As for Singapore, Heritage wrote that its “highly developed free-market economy owes its success in large measure to its remarkably open and corruption-free business environment, prudent monetary and fiscal policies, and a transparent legal framework.”
“Well-secured property rights promote entrepreneurship and productivity growth effectively,” it added.
In New Zealand, bipartisan policies fostering economic resilience and growth accounted for its economic freedom, after “far-reaching deregulation and privatisation since the 1980s have largely liberated the economy.”
Australia was ranked fifth below Switzerland, while so-called “land of the free” the United States came in way down the list at number 18 below Canada, Estonia and Ireland.
“With almost all industries open to foreign competition and a skilled workforce readily available, Australia continues to be an attractive and dynamic destination for investment,” said Heritage.
In Asia, Taiwan (13), Malaysia (22), South Korea (27) and Japan (30) were all towards the higher end of the index, al being ranked in the “mostly free” category.
North Korea, meanwhile, had the dubious honour of being the most “repressed” economy on the planet at 180. Other developing nations in the region considered “mostly unfree” were Cambodia (101), China (110), India (130) and Vietnam (141).
In terms of China, Heritage wrote that “leadership appears to be stepping back from liberalisation, increasing the likelihood of less openness to imports and investment, new bureaucratic hurdles, potentially weaker rule of law, and strengthened resistance from vested interests in the state sector that already impede more dynamic economic development.”