PH improves in economic freedom ranking

By Jose Katigbak, The Philippine Star Washington bureau

Posted at May 08 2014 07:44 AM | Updated as of May 08 2014 03:44 PM

WASHINGTON – The Philippines made notable improvements in investment, business and monetary freedoms and control of government spending in the previous year, making its economy the 89th freest in the world.

In the 2014 Index of World Economic Freedom, the Philippines scored 60.1 points, 1.9 points higher than the previous year, and advanced in the rankings of 178 countries surveyed to 89th from 97th previously.

In the Asia-Pacific region, the Philippines ranked 16th among 42 countries.

The index, an annual guide published by The Heritage Foundation think tank in Washington and The Wall Street Journal, rates countries in 10 categories – business, trade, labor and fiscal freedoms, monetary, financial and investment freedoms, government spending, property rights and freedom from corruption – and the results are averaged to create an overall score.

A report issued on Tuesday said improvements in seven of the 10 economic freedoms, including significant gains in trade freedom, investment freedom and freedom from corruption, have been partially offset by deterioration in property rights.

With its third consecutive year of overall score improvement, the Philippines has risen back to “moderately free” in the 2014 Index.

The report said the government has pursued a series of legislative reforms to enhance the investment environment in the Philippines.

It said despite progress, lingering institutional challenges would not be overcome without a deeper commitment to reform.

Although the perceived level of corruption has declined, the report said corruption and cronyism are rife in business and government, with a few dozen leading families holding an outsized share of wealth and political power.

Only Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, Switzerland, New Zealand and Canada, the top six countries in the index, were rated free.

The United States in 12th place was said to be mostly free.

ASEAN members listed in the index between runner-up Singapore and the Philippines were Malaysia (37), Brunei (40) and Thailand (73). The bottom dweller in the list was as usual North Korea.