US falls in economic freedom index

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The United States has slipped to its lowest level in world rankings of economic freedom, according an annual index released Wednesday by the conservative Heritage Foundation.

In the latest report, the U.S. ranks 17th out of 180 countries with an economic freedom score of 75.1 out of 100. Last year, the U.S. ranked number 11.

Hong Kong, Singapore and New Zealand topped the list, with respective scores of 89.8, 88.6 and 83.7. Other countries that placed ahead of the U.S. included Canada, Taiwan and Britain, among others.

The Heritage report said countries with scores between 80-100 are considered economically “free,” while countries scores between 70-79.9 are considered “mostly free.”

Individuals in those countries saw incomes at more than double the average levels in other countries and more than five times higher than the incomes of people living in countries with “repressed” economies.

The conservative political think tank’s report claims the substantial expansion in the size and scope of the U.S. government, increased regulatory and tax burdens in many sectors, and the loss of trust and confidence that has accompanied a growing perception of “cronyism” has severely undermined America’s global competitiveness.

Heritage said a low score could mean less take home pay for Americans, more difficulties for entrepreneurs and greater uncertainty for businesses.

Still, the 2017 index found that 103 countries – the majority of which are less developed or emerging economies – showed advancements in economic freedom over the past year, with 49 countries achieving their highest economic freedom scores ever, including China and Russia.  

But the report said 4.5 billion people – 65 percent of the world’s population – are still suffering from lack of economic freedom.

“More than half of these people live in just two countries, China and India, where advancement toward greater economic freedom has been both limited and uneven,” the report says.

In the two most populous economies, structural reforms in a few key sectors have sometimes boosted growth, but the governments have failed to institutionalize open environments that promote broad-based and sustainable improvements in the economic well-being of the population as a whole.”

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