A lack of personal freedom is holding back prosperity in many Asian countries
Economic growth in Asia-Pacific has lifted millions out of poverty and many Asia-Pacific countries have achieved, or are on their way to achieving, significant material wealth for their citizens. After North America and Western Europe, Asia-Pacific has the best Economic Quality and Business Environment. Countries such as South Korea, Singapore and Japan have demonstrated how a country can move from poverty to prosperity within a generation. Since 2007, real GDP per capita in Asia-Pacific has risen by 36%.
But prosperity is more than just economic success. An important feature of prosperity is Personal Freedom. Personal Freedom matters because it contributes to material prosperity and, more importantly, because it allows individuals to make choices about their own happiness and wellbeing that are unconstrained by external forces.
It is here that Asia-Pacific performs particularly poorly, albeit with some notable exceptions, such as New Zealand and Australia. The region sits second from bottom in the world for Personal Freedom, above only the Middle East and North Africa; and it is weak across all aspects of the pillar. For example, 17 out of 24 countries in the region still have the death penalty; it is sixth out of seven regions for press freedom and sixth out of seven for tolerance of immigrants.