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HK remians world freest economy

  HONG KONG, Jan. 4 (Xinhuanet) -- Hong Kong has been ranked as the world's freest economy by the Heritage Foundation (HF) for 12 consecutive years in HF's 2006 Index of Economic Freedom study released here Wednesday. 

   Welcoming the study results, Financial Secretary of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government, Henry Tang, said the encouraging news showed that Hong Kong's efforts in upholding a free market had once again been recognized and reaffirmed by the international community.

  According to the foundation, Hong Kong's virtues lay with its free port with no barriers to trade; low level of government intervention; high degree of transparency; the rule of law; streamlined and uniformly applied business regulations; strictly enforced yet non-burdensome labor regulations, simple procedures for investing and running businesses; free capital flows and foreign investment; minimum restrictions in banking and finance; largely market-determined wages and prices, stringent protection of property rights and low level of informal market activities.

  "We will continue to strive to preserve fervently those strong aspects of our economic freedom, while enhancing those other aspects where there is room for further improvement," Tang said.

  He said the HK government would continue to follow the principle of "Market leads, Government facilitates" and provide a business-friendly environment for all firms to compete on a level-playing field while maintaining an appropriate regulatory regime to ensure the integrity and smooth functioning of a free market.

  "The government is firmly committed to maintaining Hong Kong as a free market economy that accords maximum scope to the private sector," Tang said.

  The study covered a total of 157 economies worldwide and measured how well they scored on a list of 50 independent variables grouped into 10 broad factors of economic freedom. Hong Kong was ranked first in six out of these 10 broad factors with an improved overall score when compared with that of the previous year.

  According to the foundation, Hong Kong and Singapore finished first and second in the rankings for the 12th straight year. The other economies in the top 10 of most free economies are Ireland, Luxembourg, Iceland, United Kingdom, Estonia, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

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