NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Progress Of Global Economic Freedom

November 30, 1999

The sixth edition of the Index of Economic Freedom has just been published and the overall conclusion is that more countries made advances than the number that slid backwards in 1999. The bad news is that the economies of most countries remain unfree.

Jointly published by the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal, the index measures the pace and direction of economic freedoms in 161 countries.

Here are some of this year's highlights:

  • Fifty-seven countries expanded economic freedom during the past year, while 34 curtailed it.
  • The economies of 73 countries were rated as "free" or "mostly free," while 88 were judged "mostly unfree" or "repressed."
  • The freest economies are concentrated in North America and Europe, while a majority of the repressed economies are in Asia and Africa.
  • Latin American and Caribbean countries made the greatest progress in the past year.

The three countries with the highest freedom rankings were Hong Kong, Singapore and New Zealand. The U.S. shared fourth place with Bahrain and Luxembourg. Other countries rated "free" were Ireland, Australia, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Among former communist countries, Estonia, Hungary and Armenia were cited for their progress in adopting free-market policies.

The bottom five repressed countries were North Korea, Iraq, Libya, Somalia and Cuba.

The authors of the study report that each year the data point to the same important conclusion -- that countries with the most economic freedom also have higher rates of long-term economic growth and their people are better off at all income levels.

Source: Gerald P. O'Driscoll Jr. and Kim R. Holmes (both of the Heritage Foundation) with Melanie Kirkpatrick (Wall Street Journal), "Economic Freedom Marches On," Wall Street Journal, November 30, 1999.


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