Singapore still 2nd freest economy in the world but gap with top-ranked Hong Kong widens

Singapore has retained its position as the second freest economy in the world for the 22nd consecutive year. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Singapore retained its position as the second freest economy in the world for the 22nd consecutive year, but the margin with its rival Hong Kong has widened.

With a score of 87.8 points this year on the Index of Economic Freedom, published by the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal, Singapore was 0.8 point shy of the Chinese financial hub. Last year, the margin between the two cities was 0.2 point.

Economic growth has slowed in Singapore, but the city's openness to global trade and investment continues to provide a solid basis for economic dynamism, the report said.

"A transparent regulatory environment, buttressed by well-secured property rights, provides commercial security for the innovative and resilient private sector," it added.

Meanwhile, the US rose to 11th place this year from 12th place last year, but its economic freedom score dropped 0.8 points to 75.4 points.

"Following declines in seven of the past eight years, the United States this year has equalled its worst score ever in the Index of Economic Freedom," the report said.

"Ratings for labour freedom, business freedom, and fiscal freedom have flagged notably, and the regulatory burden is increasingly costly," it added.

China's global ranking sank to 144th place from 139th last year, as "deep-seated structural problems, including a continued overreliance on public investment and exports for growth, a state-controlled financial sector, and regulatory inefficiency, have become more acute", the report said.

"Over the past year, the Chinese economy has undergone a period of financial market volatility and economic slowdown. Debt at various levels of the economy has been piling up as well, posing risks to long-term economic expansion," it added.

Rounding the top five freest economies were New Zealand, Australia and Switzerland, while those at the bottom of the list were Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea.

The report said that economic freedom has a strong correlation with a country's prosperity and can lead to positive outcomes in the areas of health and education.

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