Hong Kong has slipped in a global corruption perceptions score for the second consecutive year, a report showed Tuesday.
The city was placed in the 15th spot among 178 countries or cities on the Freedom from Corruption Index, one of the components in Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom.
In the US think-tank’s previous report last year, Hong Kong was in the 13th position on the corruption freedom index, while in 2013 it enjoyed the 12th rank.
Hong Kong’s absolute score on the index fell to 75 in 2015 from 82.3 last year and 84 in 2013.
In the 2015 Index of Economic Freedom report, Heritage Foundation noted that while Hong Kong continues to enjoy relatively low rates of corruption, business interests exercise a strong influence in the unicameral legislature and executive branch.
Responding to the report, a Hong Kong government spokesman said some big corruption cases recently may have aroused public attention.
The cases, however, “are isolated since the levels of corruption in Hong Kong remain very low,” he said in a statement Wednesday.
“The way these cases were handled in accordance with the law clearly demonstrates our determination to fight corruption without fear or favor, regardless of the background, status and position of those involved,” he said.
Convictions of some people and heavy penalties imposed by courts “send a clear signal that corruption will never be tolerated in Hong Kong,” the spokesman added.
Meanwhile, the latest report from Heritage Foundation showed that Hong Kong remains the most economically free region in the world, topping the ranking for the 21st consecutive year
Hong Kong scored 89.6 points this year, down 0.5 point from the previous year. The slippage was mainly due to higher level of perceived corruption. Meanwhile, there were slight improvements in business, labor and fiscal freedom index components.
Singapore took the second spot in the Index of Economic Freedom with a score of 89.4 points. The gap between Hong Kong and Singapore narrowed to 0.2 point from 0.7 in 2014.
The report stated that Hong Kong economy’s institutional uniqueness, enshrined in its exceptional commitment to economic freedom and a high degree of autonomy pledged by the mainland, has faded a bit.
Although the city maintains the features of an economically free society, economic decision-making has become somewhat more bureaucratic and politicized, and the government’s administrative scope and reach have expanded, it noted.
Recent political events appear to have undermined public trust and confidence in the administration, it said.
Heritage Foundation ranked 178 countries or regions based on the number and intensity of government regulations on wealth-creating activities.
The overall score factored in ten indicators such as business operating environment, international trade rules, fiscal freedom, government spending relative to GDP, occupational freedom as well as governments’ honesty and efficiency.
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