WASHINGTON -  India ranked a dismal 143 in an annual index of economic freedom by a top American think tank, behind its several South Asian neighbours including Pakistan, as progress on market-oriented reforms has been “uneven”.

The Heritage Foundation in its Index of Economic Freedom report said despite India sustaining an average annual growth of about 7 percent over the past five years, growth is not deeply rooted in policies that preserve economic freedom.

Hong Kong, Singapore and New Zealand topped the index. Among South Asian countries, only Afghanistan (163) and Maldives (157) were ranked below India. Nepal (125), Sri Lanka (112), Pakistan (141), Bhutan (107), and Bangladesh (128) surpassed India in economic freedom.

Putting India in the category of “mostly un-free” economies, the conservative political think-tank said progress on market-oriented reforms has been “uneven”.

It said the state “maintains an extensive presence” in many areas through public-sector enterprises. “A restrictive and burdensome regulatory environment discourages the entrepreneurship that could provide broader private-sector growth,” the report added.

Also, India’s overall score of 52.6 points is 3.6 points less than that of last year, when India ranked 123rd. China with a score of 57.4 points – an increase of 5.4 points compared to previous year – was placed at 111 position.

The United States was ranked 17 with 75.1 points. The world average score of 60.9 is the highest recorded in the 23-year history of the index. 49 countries – the majority of which are developing countries, but also including countries such as Norway and Sweden – achieved their highest-ever index scores.