ECONOMY | Staff Reporter, Hong Kong

Hong Kong retains title as world's freest economy

The SAR ranked top in international trade freedom and regulation.

Hong Kong has maintained its title as the world’s freest economy in an annual index released by Canada-based think tank Fraser Institute on the back of stellar scores in freedom to trade internationally and regulation.

"The hard-earned results vividly reflect Hong Kong's steadfast commitment to building a free economy with a level playing field," a government spokesman said.

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Singapore followed closely at second place whilst New Zealand, Switzerland and Ireland sealed the top five. Rounding out the top ten are the United States, Georgia, Mauritius and United Kingdom. Canada and Australia shared the tenth spot.

The report however flagged concerns that growing interference from the Mainland poses a threat to Hong Kong’s strong economic standing.

“Whilst Hong Kong is still the most economically free, there is a valid concern that interference from mainland China - which ranks 108th in economic freedom - will ultimately lead to deterioration in Hong Kong’s top position, particularly in rule of law, which helps ensure equal freedom for all,” Fred McMahon, the institute’s Dr Michael A. Walker Research Chair in Economic Freedom said in a statement.

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This had a slight dampening impact on the SAR’s performance after it scored 7.5 out of 10 in the category of impartial courts whose actions have been under scrutiny in recent months due to the jailing of pro-democracy student leaders.

“Citizens in China continue to be far less free economically than citizens in virtually all jurisdictions and countries within the region,” he added.

Despite welcoming the recognition of its economic performance, the government countered concerns about rule of law in Hong Kong. “On the claim in the institute’s press release that there is a concern about the rule of law in Hong Kong, the Government said there are no objective facts showing the rule of law or judicial independence in Hong Kong has been subject to any interference,” according to a government statement.

A total of 162 countries were ranked based on official data from 2016. The report defined economic freedom as the ability of individuals to make their economic decisions by analysing regulation, freedom to trade internationally, size of government, sound legal system and property rights, and government spending and taxation.

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