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Zim least free in Africa

Ngoni Chanakira

AN influential international survey has rated Zimbabwe as the least free and most restricted economy in sub-Saharan Africa.

s-serif”>The Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal conduct the survey annually.

The shocking revelation comes as President Robert Mugabe and government officials continue to blame Western nations, especially Britain, New Zealand, Australia and the United States of demonising Zimbabwe because of its fastrack land resettlement programme.

Neighbouring South Africa, on the other hand, has been named in the survey as “the third most liberal economy in sub-Saharan Africa and one of the most unrestricted economies in the world”.

Overall, however, the study shows that economic freedom continues to improve in other sub-Saharan African countries.

Elsewhere, it says Hong Kong, with its few regulations and low taxes, still has the world’s freest economy.

The study measures how well 155 countries worldwide score on a list of 10 broad factors of economic freedom.

The factors are trade policy, fiscal burden of government, government intervention in the economy, monetary policy, capital flows and foreign investment, banking and finance, wages and prices, property rights, regulation, and informal market activity.

Low scores are desirable in this survey – the higher the score on a factor, the greater the level of government interference in the economy, and hence the less economic freedom a country enjoys.

Zimbabwe, which at 4,54 ranks at 153 in the world because of the 80% unemployment rate and an inflation rate above 200%, continues to be the least free country in sub-Saharan Africa.

The study says the region needs trade liberalisation.

It says although the trade policy factor improved in five countries, 10 others closed their markets further last year.

South Africa has been ranked 53rd out of 155 nations.

South Africa’s score going into 2004 was 2,79, up from 2,58 last year.

That is why the country ranks third in the region, behind Botswana and Uganda, which reported 2,55 and 2,70 respectively.

Botswana (39th in the world) remains the least restricted economy in the region, in spite of reporting worse performance in trade policy and fiscal burden of government.

It is followed by Uganda (48th in the world), which has privatised 74 businesses in the past decade and is targeting 85 more.

Five countries – Rwanda, Ethiopia, Cape Verde, Senegal and Mauritania – are among the 10 most improved nations globally. By contrast Namibia, Madagascar, Lesotho and Gabon reported showings that placed them in the category of the 10 countries whose scores worsened by the widest margins globally in terms of the survey.

Outside the Asia-Pacific, Venezuela, Iran, Zimbabwe and Libya were the “most repressed economies,” the report said.

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