INTOUCH : New Zealand in the world

On the latest Index of Economic Freedom we’re in fifth place – and fourth out of 30 countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
The Index, compiled by The Heritage Foundation (a Washington-based right wing think tank) with the Wall Street Journal and in its 13th year scores 157 countries across 10 ‘freedom’ factors: business, trade, fiscal, (from) government, monetary, investment, financial, property rights, (from) corruption and labour. The average score is 60.6 percent and the top scorer is Hong Kong – for the 13th year in succession – followed by Singapore and Australia.
New Zealand’s economy is scored 81.6 percent free and earns top scores for business freedom (93.7 percent), freedom from corruption (96 percent), property rights (90 percent), labour freedom (89.9 percent) and financial freedom (80 percent).
The index authors note we “could do better” in the freedom from government and fiscal freedom categories but say the overall effect of fairly high taxation and government spending is “eclipsed by the amount of economic freedom that has been established”. New Zealand, it says, is global competitor and “regional model” of economic freedom.
Meanwhile, we earn 11th equal with Ireland on another world index that measures what could be called political freedom. The Economist Intelligence Unit’s index of democracy is based on five categories: electoral process and pluralism, civil liberties, the functioning of government, political participation and political culture.
On these measures, the top scorer is Sweden, followed by other Scandinavian countries and Iceland with Australia making eighth place just ahead of Canada, Switzerland, Ireland and New Zealand. Only 28 countries are considered to be full democracies; 54 are rated as “flawed democracies” (including India, Italy and South Africa), 30 countries are described as having “hybrid” regimes and 55 as “authoritarian”.
Although more than half the world’s population lives in some kind of democracy, almost 40 percent lives under authoritarian rule (including China) and the “stalling” of democracy’s spread is one of the trends featured in “The World in 2007” – the 21st edition of The Economist’s annual compilation of forecasts.
Others issues on leaders’ agendas over the coming year, according to “The World” include: climate change described as “unignorable” in the weight of scientific evidence and public opinion; and managing global power shifts as the economic balance of power continues shifting to fast-growing ‘emerging’ markets led by China.

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