According to the Fraser Institute, a Canadian-based, global think tank, Economic Freedom (EF) is simply the ability for one to choose and decide “how to use their time and talents to shape their lives”. On a national level then, an economically free country is one that is not weighed down by bureaucracy, excessive regulations and restrictions, but rather, one that allows producers and sellers to compete freely and equally and, also allows consumers to choose freely. EF, extended to all, can generate positive social and economic outcomes. This has been proven in over 600 fact-based studies in top academic journals, which have specifically shown that economic freedom promotes growth and prosperity. Specific examples include a study by De Haan and Sturm. Taking into account educational level, population growth and investment, this study found that positive (negative) changes in economic freedom lead to positive (negative) changes in economic growth rates. Gwartney and Lawson (2004) also found that economic freedom strongly promotes investment.
To measure the level of EF for each country, the Fraser Institute developed the Economic Freedom of the World (EFW) Index. Ultimately, this index aims to determine “the degree to which the policies and institutions of countries are supportive of economic freedom.” The EFW index examines five policy dimensions which are represented under the five main indicators of EF. These are: Size of Government, Legal Systems and Property Rights, Sound Money, Freedom to Trade Internationally and Regulations. Thus, while each country receives an overall EF score, it is also possible to identify problem-areas based on the individual scores under each of these indicators. Therefore, “for the people of any nation to truly benefit from economic freedom, that nation must score well in all areas.”
Due to the importance of EF and its potential, positive impact on any given economy, the Fraser Institute has been committed to raising awareness about EF. This has involved facilitating discussions on how economic policy can be improved. These discussions, so far, have taken place in the form of Economic Freedom Audit (EFA) programmes that have been held in a number of countries including Sri Lanka, Oman, Panama, Jordan, Egypt, Côte d’Ivoire, Morocco, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tunisia, Malaysia, Lebanon, Greece, Serbia, Uruguay, and Nepal. The end goal of these audits is to i) develop and provide important information to the public, government, media, and opinion leaders on policies that create and fast-track growth and prosperity, and ii) develop practical policy reform ideas, create local ownership, and deliver these ideas and recommendations to government and the people of the nation.
On the 16th of July 2018, at the Coconut Grove Regency Hotel, Ghana held its very first EFA programme, organised by IMANI Center for Policy and Education, in partnership with the Fraser Institute. The exclusive event was well attended by a variety of stakeholders who were specially invited based on their connection to the five indicators under the EFW index. For example, lawyers, judges and police officials (only a select few) attended the event in order to provide insight into the Legal Systems and Property Rights indicator. Similarly, renowned bankers, CEO’s of businesses and representatives from the Lands Commission were also in attendance to provide insight into the Regulations indicator. Other stakeholders who were present included professors, lecturers, representatives from embassies, and the media. The event was divided into 3 sessions: a general overview of Economic Freedom, an intensive group session and finally, a plenary session that brought all stakeholders together to discuss the challenges and recommendations.
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