Ireland outranks Britain and the US for economic freedom
THE level of economic freedom in Ireland fell slightly last year but the country still remains freer than other European countries or the US, a right-leaning US think tank said.
Ireland has slipped one notch to become the world's fifth-most economically free country, the Washington-based Heritage Foundation and the 'Wall Street Journal' said in their 2010 Index of Economic Freedom, which was published yesterday.
The report described 2009 as a sometimes nightmarish year for economic freedoms and claimed economic freedom was sharply reduced in most countries following massive spending and bailouts during the financial crisis, a trend that could imperil future economic prospects.
While a cluster of countries -- Australia, New Zealand and Singapore -- garnered high scores, several of the world's top economies, including China, the UK and the United States, floundered because of "unsuccessful attempts to spend their way" to prosperity.
"If the policies in the United States don't improve in the coming years then I think we could see a continued slide in economic performance in the US and that would have significant negative repercussions for the world economy as a whole," said Terry Miller, a director with the Heritage Foundation.
While the report by an organisation that is housed in the Margaret Thatcher Centre for Freedom may not carry too much weight with hard-pressed taxpayers in Ireland, the Heritage Foundation is an influential think tank in the US, where its views influence investors and policy makers.
The foundation ranked Hong Kong as the world's most free economy, followed by Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Switzerland, Canada, the US, Denmark, Chile and Britain.
China, a relative laggard on the economic freedom charts with a ranking of 140, saw its score drop given "significant declines" in investment and labour freedoms.
The authors added that a massive lending spree by its banks was now exacerbating the risk of asset bubbles forming.