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Jordan, UAE share top place among Arab countries on economic freedom index

By Dana Al Emam - Nov 18,2014 - Last updated at Nov 18,2014

AMMAN — Jordan and the UAE have shared first rank among Arab countries in terms of economic freedom for this year, according to the Economic Freedom of the Arab World annual report. Last year, the Kingdom came second on the list.

 The report, issued by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Liberty and the International Research Foundation of Oman in addition to the Fraser Institute, evaluates economic freedom on a scale of 10, on which both Jordan and the United Arab Emirates scored 8.1.

The evaluation criteria include the size of government, commercial and economic law, and security of property rights, access to sound money, freedom to trade internationally as well as regulation of credit, labour and business. 

Bahrain ranked third with 8 points, followed by Kuwait (7.8 points) then Oman and Qatar (7.7 points each), while Algeria was at the bottom of the list (5.6 points) preceded by Iraq (5.7 points). 

The study, which was based on indicators of several international bodies including the World Bank, the United Nations and the World Trade Organisation for 2012, excluded the Palestinian territories and Somalia due to unavailability of information. 

The report, which has been compiled regularly since 2005, is one of a number of regional reports based in part or in whole on the Fraser Institute’s annual Economic Freedom of the World Report, which ranks economic freedom levels of most countries across the world. 

Co-author of the report on the Arab world Fred McMahon also cited Jordan’s ranking as ninth on the Economic Freedom of the World Index, which included 152 countries and was issued recently by the Fraser Institute.

Hong Kong ranked first and was followed by Singapore, New Zealand and Switzerland, while Finland came in the 10th place.

The study looks into 42 government policies regarding economic freedom, including those used for the Arab world report, in addition to private property and the rule of the law, trade regulation of tariffs and taxation.

McMahon noted that economic freedom is crucial to achieving political and civil freedoms, adding that economic freedom is a prerequisite for “broader” human development.

He said the results of the study prove countries that enjoy higher economic freedoms generally have larger per capita income, more civil rights, longer life expectancy at birth, higher literacy rates and a lower gap in education based on gender.

Commenting on issue from a local perspective, former finance minister Mohammad Abu Hammour said privatisation and partnership between the public and private sectors were crucial to boosting economic freedom in Jordan.

“Privatisation creates new job opportunities, decreases prices of services and increases the Treasury’s revenues,” he said on Tuesday on the sidelines of the Ninth Economic Freedom of the Arab World Conference.

In his remarks to The Jordan Times, he called for encouraging investment promotion agencies to facilitate procedures, highlighting the role of the “stable” Investment Law in creating legal stability that attracts investors.

However, Jordan still needs to downsize the public sector, which employs around 45 per cent of the country’s workforce, and to boost partnership with the private sector.

“Salaries of public sector employees as well as the civil and military retirement salaries constitute around 60 per cent of the state budget,” he said.

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