Philippines moves up to 70th among world's freest economies
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines continues to post gains in terms of economic freedom, rising 6 places in the Heritage Foundation’s 2016 list, even as poor infrastructure remains to impede the country's growth.
At 70th out of 178 economies, the country improved from last year’s 76th and marked a total gain of 45 notches since a 2011 slide.
In 2011, the Philippines was in the 115th place, which means the country was "mostly unfree."
But with the government pursuing legislative reforms to enhance the entrepreneurial environment and develop a more vibrant private sector to generate broader-based job growth, the Philippines has been climbing up steadily in the past 4 years.
The 2016 Index of Economic Freedom cited the steady growth of the Philippine economy over the past 5 years, as well as the gradual modernization of the financial sector.
In terms of regulatory efficiency, the report observed that the time and cost of dealing with licensing requirements have notably improved.
"These results once again affirm our belief that good governance is good economics," Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a statement on Tuesday, February 2.
"Apart from serving as a strong testament to the effectiveness of reforms, this positive news clearly shows how the Philippines has been progressing under the Aquino administration…" Lacierda added.
The study released by the Washington-based think tank showed the Philippines’ score in 2016 rose to 63.1 points out of a possible 100 and was deemed to be "moderately free."
The index classifies economies with scores of 80 to 100 as "free"; 79.9-70, "mostly free"; 69.9-60, "moderately free"; 59.9 to 50 "mostly unfree"; and 49.9-0 "repressed."
Only 5 economies were listed under the "free" category, with Hong Kong still the world’s freest since the ranking began 20 years ago. Joining it were Singapore, New Zealand, Switzerland, and Australia.
At the bottom were North Korea and Cuba.
Countries in the same category as the Philippines include Poland, Uruguay, Spain, Belgium, Peru, and Rwanda.
Among the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Philippines trailed behind Singapore (2nd), Malaysia (29th), Brunei (51st) and Thailand (67th) but was ahead of Indonesia (99th), Cambodia (112th), Laos (155th), Vietnam (131st) and Myanmar (158th).
More anti-corruption measures needed
Despite the Philippines’ improvement, the Heritage Foundation noted that "although the perceived level of corruption has declined, more effective anti-corruption measures need to be firmly institutionalized."
"Corruption and cronyism are rife in business and government. A few dozen leading families hold a disproportionate share of land, corporate wealth, and political power,” the think tank said.
"A culture of impunity, stemming in part from case backlogs in the judicial system, hampers the fight against corruption. The rule of law is generally weak as courts are hampered by inefficiency, low pay, intimidation, and corruption," the Heritage Foundation said. — Rappler.com