Top 10 Least Economically Free Countries

Ranked by the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal

The Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal recently released their 13th annual Index of Economic Freedom, which identifies the variables that comprise economic freedom and analyzes the interaction of freedom with wealth. The Index measures 157 countries across 10 specific factors of economic freedom.

10. Guinea-Bissau

Guinea-Bissau’s economy is 45.7% free. It scores well in fiscal freedom and somewhat well in monetary freedom. Significant restrictions on foreign investment combine with domestic regulations and an inflexible labor market to create a business-hostile climate. Corruption is so rampant that the informal market (mainly diamonds) dwarfs the legitimate market.

9. Angola

Angola’s economy is 43.5% free. The country has attained a moderate degree of economic freedom despite a devastated infrastructure and a fledgling government. But inflation is high, regulation chokes business, investment is basically unwelcome, government size is excessive, corruption is crippling, and political influence mars the judiciary.

8. Iran

Iran’s economy is 43.1% free. Its economy scores well in only one of the 10 factors measured: fiscal freedom. Overall tax revenue as a percentage of GDP is significant. Iran’s economy is unfree in many ways. High tariff rates and non-tariff barriers impede trade and foreign investment alike. Corruption is rampant, and the fair adjudication of property rights in a court of law cannot be guaranteed.

Republic of Congo

The Republic of Congo’s economy is 43% free. It does not rank strongly in any category, but it does score moderately well in monetary freedom and fiscal freedom. Very low inflation and stable prices give Congo a positive monetary score. The government interferes extensively with market prices. The weak rule of law jeopardizes property rights.

6. Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan’s economy is 42.5% free. It scores well in fiscal freedom, freedom from government, and trade freedom. A non-transparent regulatory system discourages both local businesses and foreign investment. The national financial market is unsophisticated, and most operations are dominated by the state. The judicial system is wholly controlled by the state, and corruption pervades the judiciary and civil service.

5. Burma

Burma’s economy is 40.1% free. It scores well in fiscal freedom, freedom from government, and trade freedom. As an autocratic state, Burma imposes severe restrictions on many areas of its economy. The almost complete lack of a judicial system means that domestic and foreign companies must negotiate directly with the government to resolve disputes.

4. Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s economy is 35.8% free. The government imposes an additional 3% AIDS surcharge on all taxes. Zimbabwe has transformed itself from the “breadbasket of Africa” into a starving, destitute tyranny. Expropriation is common as the political executive pushes forward with its resource redistribution-by-angry-mob economic plan.

3. Libya

Libya’s economy is 34.5% free. Business freedom, trade freedom, freedom from government, investment freedom, financial freedom, property rights, labor freedom and freedom from corruption are all serious problems. Oil dominates the economy, and the government dominates the oil sector. Corruption is rampant.

2. Cuba

Cuba’s economy is 29.7% free. Inflation is moderate, but government efforts to control all kinds of prices are pervasive. Business freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom, property rights, freedom from corruption and labor freedom are all weak. All aspects of business operations are tightly controlled and government-dominated. There are no courts independent of political interference.

1. North Korea

North Korea’s economy is 3% free. Business freedom, investment freedom, trade freedom, financial freedom, freedom from corruption and labor freedom are nonexistent. All aspects of business operations are totally controlled and dominated by the government. No courts are independent of political interference. Corruption is virtually immeasurable.