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Ireland — land of the less free?

The level of economic freedom in Ireland fell slightly last year but it remains freer than other European countries or the US, a right-leaning US think tank said.

Ireland has slipped one notch to become the world's fifth-most economically free country, the Washington-based Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal said in their 2010 Index of Economic Freedom, published yesterday.

The report described 2009 as a sometimes nightmarish year and claimed economic freedom was sharply reduced in most countries following massive spending and bail-outs during the financial crisis, a trend that could imperil future economic prospects.

While a cluster of countries — Australia, New Zealand and Singapore – garnered high scores, several of the top economies, including China, the UK and the United States, floundered because of ‘unsuccessful attempts to spend their way’ to prosperity.

Terry Miller, a director with the Heritage Foundation, said: “If the policies in the US don't improve in the coming years then I think we could see a continued slide in economic performance in the US and that would have significant negative repercussions for the world economy as a whole.”

While the report by an organisation housed in the Margaret Thatcher Centre for Freedom may not carry too much weight with taxpayers in Ireland, the Heritage Foundation is an influential think tank in the US, among investors and policy makers.

The foundation ranked Hong Kong as the world's most free economy, followed by Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Switzerland, Canada, the US, Denmark, Chile and Britain.

Belfast Telegraph