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Wed, Jan 14, 2009 - Page 10 News List

HK world’s freest economy: report

AFP , HONG KONG

Hong Kong was yesterday named the world’s freest economy for the 15th year in a row by the US-based think tank the Heritage Foundation, with North Korea and Zimbabwe at the bottom of the rankings.

The annual index, which measures a jurisdiction’s commitment to free market capitalism, placed the Special Administrative Region atop a list of 179 economies.

Hong Kong’s Asian rival Singapore was again ranked No. 2, followed by Australia, Ireland and New Zealand, the pro-free market group said.

The US dropped one place to No. 6 because of increases in both tax revenue and government spending as a percentage of GDP, one of the report’s authors, Terry Miller, said in an article in the Wall Street Journal.

Miller, director of the foundation’s Centre for International Trade and Economics, said capitalism has taken a beating in recent months, as financial institutions begged for government intervention to help them through a global crisis.

But capitalism remained the best system to battle the downturn, he said.

“Despite recent setbacks, [left-wing critics] would be hard pressed to deny that capitalism steps out more nimbly than its rivals and keeps up with the music far more surely,” he wrote.

Hong Kong is often criticized for allowing its economy to be dominated by a select group of family-controlled monopolies and cartels which control prices and block market access to competitors.

The Heritage Foundation said North Korea was the world’s most restricted economy, followed by Zimbabwe, Cuba, Myanmar and Eritrea.

Zimbabwe lost the most points on the 0 to 100 scale in the past year, followed by Venezuela, as a result of price controls, currency devaluations and nationalizations, Miller said.

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