Muscat: Oman has been ranked the 26th most economically free country in the world, according to the 2013 Economic Freedom of the World Report, released yesterday by the Fraser Institute, Canada's leading public policy think-tank.
The report reveals that the Sultanate has made considerable improvements in the sound money and freedom to trade internationally indexes as it becomes more competitive in global markets and offers attractive incentives to investors. It further highlights Oman's efforts to reduce bureaucratic bottlenecks, bypassing outdated regulations and safeguarding property rights while aggressively promoting international trade and investment.
The annual Economic Freedom of the World Report is the most objective and accurate measure of economic freedom published by any organisation, using 42 distinct variables to create an index ranking of the countries around the world based on policies that encourage economic freedom.
Hong Kong and Singapore retain the top two positions in the 2013 Economic Freedom of the World Report, followed by New Zealand, Switzerland, Australia, Canada, Mauritius, Finland, the United Kingdom and Chile completing the top 10.
Within the GCC, Oman is the third most economically free country.
Dr Salem ben Nasser Al Ismaily, Chairman of the Public Authority for Investment Promotion and Export Development (PAIPED), said: "As more countries are surveyed each year and standards improve, Oman's ranking at 26th out of 152 countries clearly signals we are a leading business destination for investment and a country that is serious about improving its business environment and competitive appeal.
"In fact, research shows that people living in countries with high levels of economic freedom enjoy higher levels of prosperity, greater individual freedoms and longer life spans," he noted.
"Our ranking in this year's Economic Freedom of the World Report demonstrates a solid foundation for future growth and highlights the progress we are making as a successful market economy. Indeed, our work on economic freedom with other government agencies and Oman's private sector will, I believe, lead to greater innovation, risk-taking, entrepreneurship and, ultimately, a higher standard of living for the people of Oman," added Al Ismaily.
Commenting on Oman's financial performance, Hamood Sangour Al Zadjali, Executive President, Central Bank of Oman, said, "Over the past few years, Oman's financial markets have matured significantly, resulting in improved liquidity as well as supporting growth in a number of sectors."
Among the 152 countries, Oman's overall performance remains consistent with last year's report in key categories, such as access to sound money: 85th to 81st; freedom to trade internationally: ninth to sixth; size of government: 91st to 101st; legal system and security of property rights: second to fifth; regulation: 12th to 23rd.
Faris Al Farsi, PAIPED's Director General of Investment Promotion, remarked, "Areas highlighted by the report for improvement include regulations pertaining to credit market, labour laws and general business framework.
In this regard, the PAIPED team works closely with government agencies and the business community to identify and resolve challenges. On a positive note, the ranking suggests that our collaborative work is beginning to pay dividends."
Commenting on the report, His Highness Sayyid Dr Adham Al Said, Assistant Professor of Economics at the Sultan Qaboos University, said, "Oman should be pleased with its overall performance in advancing economic freedom. It needs to be mindful of the areas of marked improvements and must sustain them. Moreover, it needs to identify the causes of setbacks in areas in which it historically performed well. Oman has to address the deficiencies which have high impact on economic freedom such as regulation and the legal system."