Bahrain has been ranked number one, alongside the UAE, in the Fraser Institute’s annual report on Economic Freedom of the Arab World.
Bahrain, which ranked first last year, improved its overall score to 8.1 out of 10 from 8.0. The UAE also scored 8.1, tying with Bahrain after ranking second overall in 2011 with a score of 7.9. Jordan moved into the third spot from eighth overall, improving its score to 7.9 from 7.4 last year.
Bahrain has been ranked in first place in each report since 2009, said a statement from Bahrain’s Economic Development Board.
Bahrain was placed top in a number of categories, including ‘Access to Sound Money’, ’Freedom to Trade Internationally’ and ‘Regulation’.
Within the ‘Regulation’ section, Bahrain was also ranked top within ‘Labour Market Regulations’ and ‘Business Regulations’, it said.
The report also notes that Bahrain’s ‘position as a financial hub in the region was strengthened by its improvement in the access to sound money area, coming first in rank with a score of 9.3 points, compared to 9.1 in last year’s report.’
“Economic freedom is the key to increasing prosperity, creating jobs, and reducing poverty,” said Fred McMahon, Dr. Michael A. Walker Research Chair in Economic Freedom and co-author of the Economic Freedom of the Arab World: 2012 Annual Report.
“In this way, economic freedom liberates people from government dependence and opens the door to democracy and other freedoms. The Arab Spring showed us that the region craves economic freedom.”
The Economic Freedom of the Arab World report compares and ranks Arab nations in five areas of economic freedom: size of government, including expenditures, taxes, and enterprises; commercial and economic law and security of property rights; access to sound money; freedom to trade internationally; and regulation of credit, labour, and business.
Economic freedom is based on the cornerstones of personal choice, voluntary exchange, freedom to compete, and security of private property. Research shows that individuals living in countries with high levels of economic freedom enjoy higher levels of prosperity, greater individual freedoms, and longer life spans.
“Increases in economic freedom that are, in effect, a return to the classical Arab model of free trade and open markets would help generate the economic dynamism needed to create the jobs and prosperity that the region requires for a successful future,” said Salem Ben Nasser Al Ismaily, the report’s lead author, chairman of IRF, and a member of the Fraser Institute’s board of directors.
Algeria, Mauritania, and Syria were again found to have the least economic freedom among Arab nations. These bottom-ranked countries score, on average, two points behind the nations with the highest levels of economic freedom, with Algeria at 5.7, up from 5.5 last year; Mauritania unchanged at 6.0; and Syria at 6.2, up from 5.9.
Kamal bin Ahmed, Minister of Transportation and acting chief executive of the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB), said: “Bahrain’s consistent ranking in first place among other countries in the region reflects the success of the Kingdom’s continued economic reforms. These have been aimed at liberalising the economy and creating the right environment for sustainable, long-term economic growth as well as job creation.
“This means that our tried and tested regulatory environment and commitment to international standards offer an attractive business environment, particularly for companies looking to access the growing GCC market, which is worth well over a trillion dollars.”
Other recent reports have also highlighted Bahrain’s economic strengths. Earlier this year, Bahrain was ranked first place in the Middle East and 12th place worldwide in the 2012 Wall Street Journal/ Heritage Foundation Economic Freedom Index. In September, the Fraser Institute’s annual Economic Freedom of the World Index ranked Bahrain as the seventh freest economy in the world. – TradeArabia News Service