SA scores well on economic-freedom index

South Africa's rating of 63,2% ranks it 52nd globally on the Heritage Foundation 2008 Index of Economic Freedom.

In a statement released on Monday, Century 21 South Africa -- the local chapter of the world's largest real-estate brand -- said the index, which covers 162 countries, took 10 specific freedoms into account.

These were business, trade, fiscal, freedom from government, monetary, investment, property, rights, labour, and freedom from corruption.

In a country-by-country analysis, South Africa was rated above average in seven of the 10 areas and its overall score was much higher than the regional average.

South Africa ranked third highest on the continent, behind Botswana and Mauritius, which placed it in the "mostly free" category.

According to the index report, the country's financial system was the most advanced in Africa and the government had been working to increase the transparency of commercial regulations.

Chief executive of Century 21 Duncan Gray said: "Once again, one can be pleasantly surprised and encouraged by the relative strength of South Africa's economy on an international platform."

He said it was also important to note that the country was also placed about 20th on the ranking of recognised national economies worldwide. This, from a list of 180 to 200 countries.

He said this ranking was confirmed by the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the CIA in their respective evaluations.

"This fact is further encouragement for optimism based on this relative strength and the likelihood of continued momentum."

Gray said that despite challenges relating to electricity supply, slower national economic-growth data, the political environment and other issues, Standard and Poor, Moody's and Fitch -- internationally recognised credit and risk evaluators -- had decided to retain South Africa's rating at an "admirable" BBB+.

"This surely is a vote of confidence and something to be taken seriously by all interested in building a mental picture of where we may be headed over the next few years," he said.

The Heritage Foundation, according to Century 21, maintains that there are tangible benefits of living in freer societies and confirms "clear relationships between economic freedom and numerous other cross-country variables, the most prominent being the strong relationship between the level of freedom and the level of prosperity in a given country".

"Our 14 years of index data strongly suggest that countries that increase their levels of freedom experience faster growth rates," the foundation said.

Under business freedom, South Africa scored 71,2% and the report stated that overall freedom to start a business was relatively well protected by South Africa's regulatory environment.

Closing a business was also considered fairly simple and straightforward.

In the financial freedom category, it was found that regulation is generally consistent with international standards and should be further improved by a new set of capital guidelines.

Under property rights, the report stated that the threat of expropriation was low, the judiciary was independent and contracts were generally secure.

"These and other findings ... show that South Africa is well positioned to meet both the challenges as well as the opportunities of the next few years as we ramp up into 2010 ...

"With these fundamentals as a platform, it is reasonable to maintain a solid optimism about the property sector as a whole," said Gray. -- Sapa

Articlre from: www.mg.co.za