Switzerland is the most economically free country in Europe, according to an annual index by the Heritage Foundation, an American conservative think tank. “Notable successes” were judged to be rule of law, open markets and regulatory efficiency. A concern was control of government spending.
“The Swiss economy benefits from high levels of flexibility and institutional strengths that include strong protection of property rights and minimum tolerance for corruption,” wrote the authors of the 2016 Index of Economic Freedom, which measures a country’s freedom in terms of property rights and freedom from government regulation.
“Openness to global trade and investment has enabled Switzerland to become one the world’s most competitive and innovative economies.”
Switzerland came fourth in the overall ranking, behind Hong Kong, Singapore and New Zealand. It was one of five countries, along with Australia, placed in the “free” category.
“Mostly free” were Britain (10th), the United States (11th) and Germany (17th). “Moderately free” countries included France (75th) and Italy (86th). Greece (138th) was judged “mostly unfree” and several South American countries fell into the lowest category, “repressed”. Last place, by some distance, was North Korea, although eight mostly war-torn countries were not ranked.
The ten factors used to calculate the index are corruption in government, barriers to international trade, income tax and corporate tax rates, government expenditures, rule of law and the ability to enforce contracts, regulatory burdens, banking restrictions, labour regulations and black market activities.
The Heritage Foundation says its mission is “to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values and a strong national defence”.