January 13, 2009 | News Releases on Economy
"The region has maintained an overall level of economic freedom that is slightly higher than the global average of 59.5," the editors observed. But there are clouds on the horizon. "Despite strong economic progress in many countries," they wrote, "governments and even electorates are turning away from free-market policies and embracing a new populism that looks very much like the old corrupt cronyism" that once characterized the region.
This year, the Index split the three nations of North America off from the 29 economies that are now ranked in the South America/Caribbean region. Only one economy in the new region, Chile, made the worldwide top 20 (11th).
At the other end of the scale three economies were ranked "repressed": Guyana, Venezuela and Cuba. Venezuela is especially a problem, the editors wrote. It's "increasingly anti-democratic" and is working to undermine democracy throughout the region.
Roughly half of the economies in the South America region were ranked in the "moderately free" category.
The 2009 Index has expanded its country coverage to include 183 economies, although four of these could not be graded because of insufficient data. Levels of economic freedom in 10 areas were rated on a scale of zero to 100. The higher the score, the lower the level of government interference in the marketplace.
The 10 freedoms measured are: business freedom, trade freedom, fiscal freedom, government size, monetary freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom, property rights, freedom from corruption and labor freedom. Ratings in each category were averaged, then totaled to produce the overall Index score.
Worldwide, the average rating for economic freedom held essentially steady this year. However, "there is a real possibility that the economic freedom scores in this edition might represent the historical high point for economic freedom in the world," the authors warned. As governments attempt to stave off a global recession, their meddling could threaten economic freedom and long-term economic prosperity.
Of the 179 countries ranked (the most ever), only seven were classified as "free" (a score of 80 or higher). Another 23 were "mostly free" (70-79.9). The bulk of countries--120 economies--were rated either "moderately free" (60-60.9) or "mostly unfree" (50-50.9). The remaining 29 countries had "repressed" economies, earning scores below 50.
The 2009 Index was edited by Ambassador Terry Miller, director of Heritage's Center for International Trade and Economics, and Dr. Kim Holmes, Heritage's vice president for foreign affairs. Copies of the 2009 Index (455 pp., US $24.95) can be ordered at heritage.org/index or by calling 1-800-975-8625 and are available in English or Spanish. Additionally the full text, charts and graphs are available at www.heritage.org/index.
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