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‘Kingdom 3rd most economically free country in Arab world despite decline’

Jordan performs best in ‘access to sound money’

By Ana V. Ibáñez Prieto - Dec 02,2018 - Last updated at Dec 02,2018

AMMAN — Jordan ranked 3rd in the region in the 2018 Annual Report on Economic Freedom in the Arab World, issued on Friday by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom and the Canadian Fraser Institute, which ranks the economic policies of all 22 nations of the Arab League.

The UAE and Bahrain tied for the top spot with a score of 8 out of 10, while Libya appeared to be the least economically free nation in the Arab world with a score of 4.3, just behind Syria with a score of 4.4 and Algeria with 5.3 points.

Despite the Kingdom’s overall good position when compared with its regional neighbours, Jordan’s score fell down from 8.1 points out of 10 in the report’s last edition to a score of 7.9. 

“The instability of our system, due to the surrounding conflicts, civil strife, displacement, corruption and the resulting frustration among youth, is one of the most relevant factors threatening the political and economic environment,” former minister of state for economic affairs Yusuf Mansur said during an event to present the report.

“Transforming Jordan into a productive country requires enhancing freedoms in the business environment and the overall economy,” Mansur stressed. 

“The countries that have already benefitted from signing free-trade agreements are those that have sought to improve their working environments and the competitiveness among investors,” Mansur continued, adding that “economic freedom can only be attained through the achievement of all other freedoms, and this is a process that requires a minimum of 15-20 years”. 

The report was launched during the opening of the 13th Regional Conference on Economic Freedom in the Arab World, which was held by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom in Amman over the past weekend. 

Under the theme “Opportunities for all through economic freedom”, the conference was organised in partnership with the Youth Entrepreneurs Association, the Fraser Institute and the International Research Foundation in Amman. 

The event gathered the elites among economists, business owners and representatives of civil society organisations from across the Arab world. 

Presented during the first sessions of the conference, the Annual Report on Economic Freedom of the Arab World aims to “provide a reliable and objective metric of economic policy throughout the Arab World”, the study says.

The report also measures “the extent to which citizens of the nations of the Arab League are able to make their own economic decisions, without barriers to opportunity and limitations imposed by the government or by crony elites”. 

For this purpose, a total of 42 components were analysed across the areas of size of government in expenditures, taxes and enterprises, commercial and economic law and security of property rights, access to sound money, freedom to trade internationally and the regulation of credit, labour and business.

The Kingdom performed best in terms of access to sound money, achieving the second spot regionally with a score of 9.7, followed by the size of government with 8 points out of 10 and the regulations in business, labour and credit with a score of 7.2. 

However, the Jordanian economy continues to have plenty of room for improvement in the areas of security of property rights and freedom to trade internationally, which ranked the worst for the Kingdom. 

Assessing the results as a whole, the study warned that over the past few years, the average score of all Arab nations has exhibited a noticeable decline, from 7 in 2012 to 6.5 in 2016. 

“We hope that Economic Freedom of the Arab World [report] will be a timely reminder of the importance of real reform in increasing economic freedom and prosperity throughout the region,” the authors expressed in the study, stressing that “the report provides an objective, respected measure of actual reform”.

“This report separates the rhetoric of reform and crony capitalism from the reality of true reform,” the study said, noting that “gains in economic freedom will show in the index only when people’s liberties are actually increased”.

Over the course of the two-day conference, a series of lectures and discussion sessions were held on topics such as the regulations governing business and employment, the effects of the educational system and vocational training, ways to create better economic opportunities and the improvement of the rule of law to combat corruption. 

In addition, experts examined the issues related to recently adopted economic policies in Arab countries, elaborating on how they affect the development of economic freedom indicators.

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