Extra Virgin February 09 - Antilove
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environmentSA Among the Best of the Worst

With economists forecasting all shades of doom and gloom for 2009, the last thing we need is for a bunch of Americans with thick glasses to brandish a new study that finds Sub-Saharan Africa is earth’s least economically free region. But, contested as it may be, the Index of Economic Freedom has published its result for 2009 South Africa has, promisingly, climbed a few places.

"When institutions protect the liberty of individuals, greater prosperity results for all." Economist Adam Smith formed this theory in his influential work, The Wealth of Nations, in 1776. In 2009, his theory is measured – and proven – in the Index of Economic Freedom, an annual guide published by The Wall Street Journal and The Heritage Foundation. The news for South Africa and its fellow Sub-Saharan African countries is bittersweet.

It may be a list compiled by US analysts using Western criteria, but the results are revealing nonetheless. Sub-Saharan Africa finished last in eight of the 10 components of economic freedom measured in the 2009.

South Africa's own economic freedom score is 63.8 (on 100-point scale in which a higher score represents greater freedom), making its economy the 61st freest in the 2009 Index. Its score is 0.4 point better than last year, reflecting improvements in four of the 10 economic freedoms. South Africa is ranked 3rd out of 46 countries in the Sub-Saharan Africa region, and its overall score is higher than the world average.

The new report pegs the region's overall level of economic freedom at 53.1. That's significantly below the world average of 59.5, making Sub-Saharan Africa the world's lowest-scoring region for economic freedom. This matters because the Index shows a direct correlation between economic freedom and prosperity. Countries with higher levels of freedom tend to have higher GDP per capita.

The Index rated most nations in the region either "mostly unfree" or "repressed." "In Sub-Saharan Africa there are only distinctions among less free economies," the editors wrote.

Still, there are positive signs. Mauritius (18th globally) remains among the world's 20 freest economies, finishing 10 points or more above the global average in eight of the economic freedoms measured by the index. Botswana remains the region's second freest economy, followed by South Africa and Uganda.

At the other end of the spectrum is Zimbabwe. Under the misrule of Robert Mugabe, it suffered the world's greatest loss of economic freedom. The Index now rates that nation below the world average on each of its 10 components of economic freedom. Fifteen other economies in the region are also rated as "repressed," leaving Sub-Saharan Africa's "overall level of economic freedom weaker than that of any other region," the editors wrote.

See www.heritage.org for a full report.






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