A major United States think tank says that St. Lucia has the most economic freedom in the Caribbean.
In its 2012 Index of Economic Freedom, in partnership with the Wall Street Journal, the Heritage Foundation ranked St. Lucia 24th in the world, ahead of Barbados (37th).
The index looks at a series of factors, including the rule of law, limited government, regulatory efficiency and open markets.
“St. Lucia’s economic freedom score is 71.3, making its economy the 24th freest in the 2012 Index,” the Heritage Foundation said.
“Its score is 0.5 point better than last year, with improvements in monetary, investment and labor freedom offset by deterioration in the control of government spending and business freedom,” it added.
The foundation said St. Lucia is ranked 2nd out of 29 countries in the South and Central America/Caribbean region, and its overall score is above the world average.
“The St. Lucian economy has long benefited from a well-developed legal and commercial infrastructure and a tradition of entrepreneurial dynamism in the private sector,” it said.
“The business environment is generally efficient and transparent, and the regulatory framework has become more streamlined,” it added.
“The small financial sector has not suffered any serious impact from the global financial turmoil, but the recession has hurt the tourism sector,” it continued.
The Heritage Foundation, however, said that St. Lucia’s open-market policies are not firmly institutionalized, adding that trade freedom is limited by tariff and non-tariff barriers, and the investment regime lacks efficiency.
“Greater access to financing opportunities remains critical to private-sector development,” it said, stating that, in recent years, expansionary government spending has driven up public debt to around 65 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The foundation ranked the Bahamas 46th, St. Vincent and the Grenadines 52nd, Jamaica 58th, Trinidad and Tobago 63rd, Belize 77th, Dominica 80th, Suriname 133rd, Guyana 137th, and Haiti 142nd .