Vol. 5 Num 574 Fri. January 06, 2006  
Front Page

Bangladesh ranks 141st in economic freedom index
Worst in Saarc, says study

Bangladesh has been ranked 141st among 161 countries in the 2006 Index of Economic Freedom published by the Wall Street Journal and the Heritage Foundation, a US-based research group.

The country, which scored 3.88 points, was also placed in the third of the four categories -- free, mostly free, mostly unfree and repressed -- in terms of economic freedom.

Hong Kong, which scored 1.28 points, was ranked first in the index, followed by Singapore with 1.56 points and Ireland with 1.58 points. They are among the 19 countries dubbed as free and placed in the first category.

Bangladesh's ranking was the worst among five of the seven-nation South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc).

Sri Lanka was in a better position and shared the 92nd position with Romania with a score of 3.19, followed by Pakistan with 110th position and 3.33 points, India with 121st position and 3.49 points, and Nepal with 125th position and 3.53 points. Bhutan and the Maldives were not included in the list.

All the Saarc member nations were placed in the third category, as they were dubbed 'mostly unfree' economically.

Bangladesh, which managed to reduce its overall score by 0.07 point this year, obtained better score in the monetary policy than in the other areas. A lower score signifies better position.

The country's monetary policy scored 2.0 points, followed by wages and prices with 3.0 points, fiscal burden with 3.3 points, government intervention, foreign investment, banking and finance and property rights with 4.0 points each, informal market with 4.5 points and trade policy with 5.0 points.

The government intervention score is 0.5 point worse this year, the fiscal burden score is 0.2 point better, and the banking and finance score is 1 point better.

The Wall Street Journal and the Heritage Foundation in their report on Bangladesh said: "...weak rule of law -- manifesting itself in some of the world's worst official corruption, civil crime, and political violence --continues to burden Bangladesh's democracy."

On the country's trade policy, the report said Bangladesh imposes a number of prohibitions and restrictions on imports, and corruption also serves as a non-tariff barrier.

Quoting the US Department of Commerce, it said business people consider Bangladesh Customs to be a thoroughly corrupt organisation in which officials routinely exert their power to influence the tariff value of imports and to expedite or delay import and export processing at the ports.

The government's simplistic policy solutions have made the situation worse, the report said, adding the government attempted to boost law enforcement by forming the Rapid Action Battalion with attacks on suspected criminals, numerous abuses, including extra-judicial killings and torture, but crime or corruption have not declined measurably.

"The chaos of a lawless society has added to other problems keeping economic growth to roughly 5 percent annually, substantially below the 8 percent needed for appreciable development."

It added: "Until the government addresses Bangladesh's many structural weaknesses, there is little reason for optimism about the country's future."