Today the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal have released
the 19th annual Index of Economic Freedom. There are only 23 countries where business environment is more negative than in Belarus.
While Hong Kong leads with 89.3 points, Belarus’s economic freedom score is 48, which makes its economy the 154th freest in the 2013 Index. Its overall score is 1 point worse than last year due to a significant decline in monetary freedom that outweighs gains from improved business freedom and reduced government spending. Belarus is ranked 42nd among the 43 countries in the Europe region, Ukraine taking the lowest position.
“Belarus is one of only two European economies to earn the designation “repressed.” Pervasive state controls persist in many economic areas, and widespread state investment and redistribution activities have stifled progress in the development of a modern diversified economy. Overall progress in business reform has been uneven, and the small private sector remains marginalized. Policy reforms are urgently needed to open markets and improve productivity. The state has reintroduced price-control measures and installed export controls,” the experts stress.
With its poor protection of property rights and high levels of corruption, Belarus lacks the foundations on which to build functioning markets. “Dictatorial governance, an ineffective judiciary, and time-consuming bureaucracy leave prospective entrepreneurs with little hope of success,” the report reads.
Hong Kong and Singapore finished first and second in the rankings for the 19th straight year. Australia and New Zealand ranked third and fourth, and Switzerland fifth. Canada finished sixth, despite slipping a half point, while Chile took seventh place and moved more than half a point toward greater economic freedom. Mauritius, the only Sub-Saharan country to rank among the top 10, was eighth with an overall score of 76.9. Denmark finished ninth, just ahead of the United States, which remains in tenth.
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 177 countries graded in the 2013 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).
There are 10 specific categories: property rights, freedom from corruption, fiscal freedom, government spending, business freedom, labor freedom, monetary freedom, trade freedom, investment freedom, and financial freedom. Scores in these categories are averaged to create an overall score.
It is noteworthy that the Belarusian authorities repeatedly announced their intention to be inside the top thirty countries with the best business environment.