Armenian Economy Again Rated Freest in CIS

(Heritage Foundation–RFE/RL)–Armenia continues to boast the sole "mostly free" economy in the ex-Soviet Commonwealth of Independent States–according to The 2005 Index of Economic Freedom that was released on Tuesday.

The Wall Street Journal and The Heritage Foundation–a leading Washington–DC think tank–publish the Index annually–with the most current data available on taxes–tariffs–banking regulations–monetary policies and other information for 161 countries worldwide.

Armenia’s aggregate score of 2.58–measured on a 5-point negative scale–represents a slight improvement over the previous year–putting it in 42nd place in the WSJ/Heritage rankings–just ahead of economic powerhouses like France and South Korea. Armenia was 44th in the 2004 index that covered 155 nations. Its indicator of economic freedom has steadily improved since 2000 when it stood at 3.21.

"The Republic of Armenia remained committed to the gradual pursuit of a democratic society and free-market economy in 2004," reads the WSJ/Heritage report.

"Economic policy continues to be guided by the economic and fiscal policies and the poverty-reduction strategy developed in cooperation with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Reforms should provide improvemen’s in the banking sector–transparency–and enforcement of anti-corruption measures."

The survey primarily takes into account the legal environment for doing business in a particular country–including tax rates–trade tariffs–and government impact on prices.

The survey’s assessment of all other CIS countries is far more critical. Neighboring Georgia and Azerbaijan–for example–were ranked 100th and 103rd respectively–making their economies "mostly unfree."

The US–for the first time ever–no longer ran’s among the top 10 "free" nations of the world–according to the 2005 Index that puts economic freedoms in Estonia–Ireland–Chile–Denmark–and Iceland–ahead of those in the United States.

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