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Thu, Jul 10, 2003 - Page 12 News List

HK is number one: Cato

AFP , HONG KONG

Hong Kong's government, facing public wrath over its plans for anti-subversion laws, on yesterday welcomed an American think tank's ranking of the territory as the world's freest economy.

In the "Economic Freedom of the World, 2003 Annual report" released in Washington Tuesday, Hong Kong is again ranked as the freest economy in the world.

"Hong Kong's entrenched advantages are once again recognized by reputable organizations," financial secretary Antony Leung said yesterday.

"Among our advantages are our low tax system, free trade and free market, free flow of capital and information, just to name a few," Leung said.

He pledged that the government was "firmly committed to further enhancing Hong Kong's competitiveness as an international financial and business center and maintaining an open and business-friendly environment."

The report was published by US-based Cato Institute in conjunction with the Fraser Institute of Canada and nearly 50 different research institutes around the world.

Ironically, the economic freedom ranking came just when Hong Kong was straining against a perceived threat to its democratic freedoms after six years under Chinese sovereignty.

The freedom rankings used data for 2001, however, long before the latest upheavals in Hong Kong, perceived by some as a free-wheeling capitalist society with low taxes and a minimal social safety net.

On Monday, Hong Kong chief executive Tung Chee-hwa was forced to defer final reading of a new anti-subversion law after widespread international and public protest that culminated in a massive July 1 demonstration.

The formerly British-ruled territory, which reverted to Chinese control in 1997, has been in first place in each report since the index of economic freedom was first published in 1996.

In addition to it, Hong Kong is also ranked first in "size of government," "freedom to exchange with foreigners," and "regulation of credit, labor and business."

Singapore ranks second in the reports, while the US is third. China is ranked 100, while at the bottom of the list is Burma, ranking 123.

The index is based on criteria such as openness to competition, the ability to travel, as well as protection of person and property.

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