SINGAPORE - Singapore retained its position as the second freest economy in the world for the 24th consecutive year, but the margin with top-ranked rival Hong Kong has widened further.
Singapore scored 88.8 points on the 2018 Index of Economic Freedom published by the Heritage Foundation - 1.4 points shy of Hong Kong's 90.2. Last year, the margin between the two cities was 1.2 point - up from 0.8 point the year before.
The US think tank's annual ranking grades 12 freedoms - from property rights to financial freedom - on a scale of zero to 100 in 186 economies.
Singapore's latest score went up 0.2 point from last year, with improvements in government integrity, labour freedom and property rights outweighing lower scores in business freedom and fiscal health, the report said.
"Singapore's 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," the report added.
"The government is prudent in its implementation of an active industrial policy to promote economic development and diversification and is addressing business concerns through significant public investments and targeted fiscal incentives.
"Well-secured property rights promote entrepreneurship and productivity growth effectively. A societal intolerance of corruption strongly undergirds the rule of law."
Meanwhile, Hong Kong's overall score went up 0.4 point from last year, with improvements in government integrity, business freedom, and monetary freedom offsetting a decline in the property rights indi-cator.
China came in at 110th on the ranking, edging up one place from last year, while the United States dropped one place to 18th even though its score improved by 0.6 point due to better financial freedom, such as lower government regulation in financial services.
Rounding out the top five freest economies were New Zealand, Switzerland and Australia, while those at the bottom of the list were Cuba, Venezuela and North Korea.