Harare - Economic freedom is losing ground in South Africa, while it has stalled in other countries of sub-Saharan Africa.
Economic freedom is a crucial component of liberty. It empowers people to work, produce, consume, own, trade and invest according to personal choice.
According to the latest scores from the 2013 Index of Economic Freedom, published annually by the Wall Street Journal and the Heritage Foundation, South Africa shed 0.9% to close at 61.8 points.
The country falls in the third tier made up of countries that are said to be “moderately free”.
In sub-Saharan Africa, economic freedom “remains weaker than that of any other region". Most countries in this region either fall into the index’s “mostly unfree” or “repressed” categories.
Indeed, 15 of the world’s 33 “repressed” economies are in sub-Saharan Africa and 22 are in the next lowest, “mostly unfree” category.
Sub-Saharan Africa continues to lag far behind the five other regions of the world in overall economic freedom. It is dead last in seven of 10 measures of economic freedom, and collectively scores about 13 points behind average world scores in business freedom and more than 10 points behind in property rights and freedom from corruption.
Mauritius bucks the trend
Mauritius however remains in the top 10 in annual worldwide rankings - the only one of 48 sub-Saharan countries to do so. Second-placed Botswana, meanwhile, moved from “moderately free” to “mostly free” by adding one full point to its score.
According to a press release by the Heritage Foundation, several countries showed improvement, with Zimbabwe reporting the best increase by moving up 2.3 points to 28.6.
Benin and Seychelles, meanwhile, both added almost two full points to their index scores and Gabon added 1.4. Yet all three remain mired in the “mostly unfree” category, which shows how far the region has to go.
Overall, Hong Kong’s economic freedom score of 89.3 keeps it atop the index rankings for the 19th consecutive year.
Its overall score is 0.6 of a point lower than last year, mainly due to increased government spending relative to gross domestic product and an increase in inflation. Hong Kong is ranked 1st out of 41 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, and 1st in the world.
The world average score of 59.6 was only one-tenth of a point above the 2012 average. Since reaching a global peak in 2008, economic freedom has continued to stagnate.
The overall trend for last year, however, was positive: among the 177 countries ranked in the 2013 index, scores improved for 91 countries and declined for 78.
*Malcom Sharara is Fin24's correspondent in Zimbabwe.
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