LJUBLJANA (Slovenia), February 2 (SeeNews) - Slovenia has climbed 33 spots to 64th place on the 2018 global economic freedom chart with a dramatic upsurge in fiscal health eclipsing lower scores for the government integrity and business freedom indicators, The Heritage Foundation said.
Slovenia is ranked 31st among 44 countries in the Europe region, and its overall score is below the regional average but above the world average, according to the 2018 Index of Economic Freedom report published by the U.S.-based think-tank.
The government of Slovenia has maintained a laser-like focus on fiscal consolidation to ensure the long-term stability of public finances in 2017. It is also implementing structural reforms in the corporate and banking sectors, restructuring and pursuing privatization of indebted state-owned enterprises, and improving corporate governance in the hope of attracting new foreign direct investment, the foundation noted.
The index measures economic freedom in 12 areas - from property rights to entrepreneurship - in 186 countries worldwide through 12 quantitative and qualitative factors, grouped into four broad categories: Rule of law, Government size, Regulatory efficiency and Open markets.
Overall, Slovenia received a score of 64.8 points in the 2018 Index of Economic Freedom, up 5.6 points from a year earlier.
In terms of the rule of law, the Heritage Foundation said the enforcement of protection of private property rights is slow in Slovenia, but noted that property registration procedures have improved.
Corruption is less prevalent than in many of Slovenia's neighbors, but in a 2016 poll of Slovenian company managers, 74% said that they had encountered demands for bribes.
Government spending is rising and has amounted to 47.9% of total output (GDP) over the past three years, while the budget deficits have averaged 3.6% of GDP. Public debt is equivalent to 78.9% of GDP.
In terms of regulatory efficiency, the Heritage Foundation noted that a lack of government transparency and inconsistent implementation of regulations hampers the entrepreneurial environment.
"Slovenia has a well-educated and skilled labor force, but rigid labor regulations cause the labor market to lack dynamism", it added.
The government is privatizing several state-run companies, such as Telekom Slovenije and Cinkarna Celje, but the reform process has been slow and complicated, according to report.
Trade is extremely important to Slovenia’s economy; the combined value of exports and imports equals 148% of GDP but trade freedoms are dropping, the think-tank estimated.
Government openness to foreign investment is above average, but the overall investment regime lacks efficiency, according to the Heritage Foundation.