US think tank: PH economy 'unfree,' judiciary 'inefficient'

By Dennis D. Estopace, BusinessMirror

Posted at Sep 19 2012 07:38 AM | Updated as of Sep 19 2012 03:38 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine economy is "mostly unfree" and still way below the global average for economically free countries, and its judicial branch is "inefficient" and vulnerable to politics, according to The Heritage Foundation.

In its 2012 Index of Economic Freedom presented on Monday, the Washington, D.C., US-based think tank revealed that while the Philippines inched up from its score of 56 in 2008, its current score of 57.1 is still below the 59.5 world average, or the 57.5 average for the Asia-Pacific region.

Meanwhile, the foundation noted that “there are lingering institutional challenges that will require deeper commitment to reform.”

"Despite some progress, corruption continues to undermine prospects for long-term economic development. The inefficient judiciary, which remains susceptible to political interference, does not provide effective protection for property rights or strong and transparent enforcement of the law," it said.

James M. Roberts, research fellow of the 39-year-old institution, said the country’s average is based on their team’s analysis of how countries like the Philippines fare in the 10 economic freedoms.

Under the Rule of Law category, the Philippines is way below the world average in terms of Property Rights (97th) and freedom from corruption (136th).

Under Limited Government, since The Heritage Foundation believes in minimal government intervention in the market, the country scored higher than the global average at 79.1 in terms of fiscal freedom and 89.7 in terms of government spending.

Nonetheless, while the Philippines increased by 0.3 in fiscal freedom compared to the 2011 index, government spending dropped by 1.3 from last year’s index.

Under regulatory efficiency, the country is also below business freedom, scoring 54.3 and ranked 135th, and labor freedom, scoring 51.7 and ranked 124th of a total 179 countries.

But monetary freedom is greatly enjoyed in the Philippines, garnering an economic freedom score of 77.1 and an index of 74.

Under Open Markets, the country was relatively good with trade freedom, just above par the global index and financial freedom.

But it was way below global averages in terms of investment freedom.

The Philippines ranked 19th out of 41 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, and its overall score was slightly below the world and regional averages, a report on the country said.

Compared to other countries, Lebanon is economically freer than the Philippines if the foundation’s indexing is followed, as the former garnered a freedom score of 60.1 compared to the Philippines’s overall score of 57.1.

The Philippines, at 107, was even beaten by Swaziland, which was given a score of 57.2 and placed one notch "freer" at 106. It tied with Mozambique, which was given the same score. According to the indexing, countries with a score of 60 to 69.9 were moderately free, while those at the 50 to 50.9 quintile are "mostly unfree."

The Philippines was among 60 countries ranked with the latter group.

Sixty-two countries were considered “moderately free,” while only 28 countries were considered free, with Hong Kong leading all with a score of 89.9, greater than the 76.3 score given to the United States.

Even the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, the United Kingdom, failed to make it as one of the top 10 countries enjoying economic fredom, with a score of 74.1.

China, the world's economic engine, was at 138th place overall but Roberts said this was due to this country’s non-recognition of property rights.