Singapore is world's second freest economy but there are some worrying signs

Singapore ranks fifth in global 'travel freedom' index
A small transportation boat, know as a bumboat, passes skyscrapers and conserved shophouses which had been turned into restaurants and pubs along the Singapore River at Boat Quay May 11, 2015.

Singapore held its place as the second freest economy in the world for the 24th consecutive year, The Heritage Foundation said on Friday.

Singapore scored 88.8 points on the 2018 Index of Economic Freedom- 1.4 points shy of Hong Kong's 90.2.

The margin between the two cities was, however, higher from last year, which stood at 1.2 points in 2017 and 0.8 point in 2016.

Singapore's overall score has increased by 0.2 point, with improvements in government integrity, labor freedom, and property rights outweighing lower scores for the business freedom and fiscal health indicators, the report said.

"Singapore is one of the world's least corrupt countries, although the power of deeply entrenched political elites continues to raise concerns," according to the report.

New Zealand took the third spot while Switzerland stood fourth on the index.

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Among the 180 countries ranked, scores improved for 102 countries and declined for 75. Only three remained unchanged.

The United States managed to halt its recent slide, recording a score of 75.7, more than half a point above its 2017 score. Ranked No. 18 globally, it remains "mostly free".

Launched in 1995, the index evaluates countries in four broad policy areas that affect economic freedom: rule of law; government size; regulatory efficiency; and open markets.

There are 12 specific categories: property rights, judicial effectiveness, government integrity, tax burden, government spending, fiscal health, business freedom, labor freedom, monetary freedom, trade freedom, investment freedom, and financial freedom. Scores in these categories are averaged to create an overall score.

The Heritage Foundation only studied data up until June 30 for the 2018 index.