India has jumped 13 places in the last one year to be at 130th spot in the latest annual Index of Economic Freedom released by a top American think-tank. In 2017, India with a score of 52.6 points was ranked at 143 among 180 countries, two spots below neighbour Pakistan, according to the Index of Economic Freedom.

China with 57.4 points was ranked 111 in the 2017 index of The Heritage Foundation, an American conservative public policy think-tank based in Washington. As per the latest Index of Economic Freedom, China has jumped one spot and Pakistan is now at 131 position.

India’s economic freedom score is 54.5, making its economy the 130th freest in the 2018 Index, the Heritage Foundation said. “Its overall score has increased by 1.9 points, led by improvements in judicial effectiveness, business freedom, government integrity, and fiscal health. India is ranked 30th among 43 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, and its overall score is below the regional and world averages,” it added.

Noting that India is developing into an open-market economy, the Index said traces of its past autocratic policies still remain. Economic liberalisation measures, including industrial deregulation, privatisation of state-owned enterprises and reduced controls on foreign trade and investment, that began in the early 1990s, accelerated growth, the report said.

Economic reforms

More recently, the government reformed one of its more opaque operational practices to make the auctioning of rights to exploit state-owned resources more transparent. “Corruption, underdeveloped infrastructure, a restrictive and burdensome regulatory environment, and poor financial and budget management continue to undermine overall development,” the report said.

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised sweeping economic reforms, the report said the reforms thus far have been modest. “India’s diverse economy encompasses traditional village farming, modern agriculture, handicrafts, a wide range of modern industries, and a multitude of services,” it said.

Although land titles in some urban and nearly all rural areas remain unclear, real property rights in large metropolitan areas are generally well enforced. “The judiciary is independent, but the Indian courts are understaffed and lack the technology necessary to clear an enormous backlog. Although officials are often caught accepting bribes, a great deal of corruption goes unnoticed and unpunished,” according to the Heritage Foundation.

Observing that non-tariff barriers significantly impede trade, the Heritage Foundation said the government’s openness to foreign investment is below average. “State-owned institutions dominate the financial sector, and foreign participation is limited. In public-sector banks, troubled assets account for about 10 percent of total assets,” it said.