For Immediate Release
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ECONOMIC FREEDOM CONTRACTS IN MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA, INDEX SHOWS
Egypt, Iran lose ground; Saudi Arabia, four others post modest gains
WASHINGTON, JAN. 14, 2014—Economic freedom declined last year in the turmoil-filled Middle East and North Africa, according to the 2014 Index of Economic Freedom, published annually by The Heritage Foundation.
The region is plagued by structural and institutional problems, the Index editors note. Its unemployment rate, which tops 10 percent, is among the highest in the world, and decades of authoritarianism have concentrated power and resources in the hands of a few.
“The [region’s] problems will not be solved simply by holding elections with more political parties or allowing freedom of expression,” the editors wrote. “Hard institutional reforms that reduce the state’s role in the economy and in peoples’ lives are required. Leaders have already fallen, yet regimes and institutions remain and stealthily guard their power.”
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 an aggregate score, each of 178 countries graded in the 2014 Index is 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).
Most economies in Middle East/North Africa remain only “moderately free” or “mostly unfree.” It is home to one “repressed” economy (Iran) and none that are “free.”
Bahrain, the region’s top performer in the Index—and, at No.13, the only Middle East/North Africa country in the top 20—declined 0.4 points. The United Arab Emirates (third regionally, 28th globally) has advanced its economic freedom for five consecutive years. The UAE has advanced steadily into the ranks of “mostly free” economies, thanks largely to the government’s steady commitment to economic reforms that have encouraged the growth of a dynamic private sector.
Qatar declined slightly, but continues as the region’s only other “mostly free” economy. Saudi Arabia had an impressive gain of 1.6 points, while Israel had an increase of 1.5 points.
Of the 18 ranked countries in the Middle East/North Africa region, only five scores improved. Egypt (-1.9) and Iran (-2.9) had significant declines, and six other countries remain in the “mostly unfree” category.
The world average score of 60.3—seven-tenths of a point above the 2013 average—is the highest average in the two-decade history of the Index, the editors note. Forty-three countries, including Singapore and Sweden, achieved their highest scores yet in the 2014 Index. Among the 178 countries ranked, scores improved for 114 countries and declined for 59. Four recorded no score change.
The 2014 Index was edited by Ambassador Terry Miller, director of Heritage’s Center for International Trade and Economics; Anthony B. Kim, senior policy analyst in the Center for International Trade and Economics; and Kim Holmes, Ph.D., Heritage’s Distinguished Fellow. Copies of the Index (490 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, also is available online.
About The Heritage Foundation
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