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January 10, 2013

Middle East/North Africa's Overall Level of Economic Freedom Decreases

For Immediate Release
Contacts:
Jim Weidman, (202) 675-1761, jim.weidman@heritage.org
Kate Dobbin, +44-207 573 4016, kate.dobbin@dowjones.com

MIDDLE EAST/NORTH AFRICA’S OVERALL LEVEL OF ECONOMIC FREEDOM DECREASES

Egypt, Saudi Arabia lose ground; Bahrain, six others post gains

WASHINGTON, JAN. 10, 2013—Economic freedom continued to decline last year in the Middle East/North Africa region, according to the 2013 Index of Economic Freedom, published annually by The Wall Street Journal and The Heritage Foundation.

The region lost three-tenths of a point on its overall score since last year, and the grading of economic freedom for Libya and Syria had to be suspended. Scores on monetary freedom, investment freedom and financial freedom in the Middle East/North Africa region rank below global averages.

Launched in 1995, the Index evaluates countries in four broad areas of economic freedom: rule of law; regulatory efficiency; limited government; and open markets. Based on its aggregate score, each of 177 countries graded in the 19th annual edition of the Index was classified as “free” (i.e. combined scores of 80 or higher); “mostly free” (70-79.9); “moderately free” (60-69.9); “mostly unfree” (50-59.9); or “repressed” (under 50).

Bahrain remained the region’s top performer in the Index, gaining 0.3 points, and defended its spot at No.12 in the world with an overall score of 75.5 points. Egypt lost 3.1 points, leaving it tied for the third-largest decline in the world.

“Unfortunately, economic problems will not be solved simply by holding elections or allowing greater expressions of dissent,” the Index editors write. “Policies and practices that restrict economic freedom are deeply ingrained, and it remains to be seen whether the region’s new political leaders have the will to undertake the fundamental economic reforms that are needed.”

Of the 15 ranked countries in the Middle East/North Africa region, seven scores improved and the same number of countries lost economic freedom. The United Arab Emirates and Jordan posted modest gains and advanced into the “mostly free” category. Lebanon and Morocco slid back into the “mostly unfree” group.

Despite its 0.9 score increase, Iran continues to be one of only two countries in the region that remain “repressed”; Algeria is the other.

The world average score of 59.6 was only one-tenth of a point above last year. Since reaching a global peak in 2008, the editors note, economic freedom stagnated. The overall trend for last year, however, was positive: Among the 177 countries ranked in the 2013 Index, scores improved for 91 countries and declined for 78. On the plus side, average government spending scores improved. Unfortunately, this was matched by a decline in regulatory efficiency, as a number of countries hiked minimum wages and tightened control of labor markets.

The 2013 Index was edited by Ambassador Terry Miller, director of Heritage’s Center for International Trade and Economics; Kim Holmes, Ph.D., Heritage’s Distinguished Fellow; and Edwin J. Feulner, Ph.D., Heritage’s president. Copies of the Index (494 pages, $24.95) may be ordered online at www.heritage.org/index or by calling 1-800-975-8625. The full text, including charts and graphs, is available online.


About The Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal is theworld’s leading business publication with more than two million subscribers and is the largest U.S. newspaper by total paid circulation. The Wall Street Journal franchise comprises The Wall Street Journal, The Wall Street Journal Asia, The Wall Street Journal Europe, and The Wall Street Journal Online at WSJ.com, the leading provider of business and financial news and analysis on the Web with more than one million digital subscribers and 36 million visitors per month worldwide. WSJ.com is the flagship site of The Wall Street Journal Digital Network, which includes MarketWatch.com, Barrons.com, AllThingsD.com and SmartMoney.com. The Journal holds 34 Pulitzer Prizes for outstanding journalism, and in 2012, was ranked No. 1 in BtoB’s Media Power 50 for the 13th consecutive year.

About The Heritage Foundation

The Heritage Foundation is the nation’s most broadly supported public policy research institute, with more than 710,000 individual, foundation and corporate donors. Founded in 1973, Heritage develops public policy solutions that advance free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional values and a strong national defense.

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