SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - For those who value their freedom of expression as much as health, wealth, and prosperity, then Finland is the place to be, with an index ranking the Nordic nation the best in the world.
The 2009 Legatum Prosperity Index, published on Tuesday and compiled by the Legatum Institute, an independent policy, advocacy and advisory organization, ranked 104 countries which are home to 90 percent of the world's population.
The index is based on a definition of prosperity that combines economic growth with the level of personal freedoms and democracy in a country as well as measures of happiness and quality of life.
With the exception of Switzerland, which came in at number 2, Nordic countries dominated the top 5 slots, with Sweden in third place followed by Denmark and Norway.
The top 10 were all also Western nations, with Australia (6th place) and Canada (7th place) both beating the United States, ranked 9th. Britain came in at number 12.
In Asia, Japan was the region's highest ranked country at number 16, followed by Hong Kong (18th place) and Singapore (23rd place) and Taiwan (24th place).
Dr. William Inboden, senior vice president of the Legatum Institute, said the lower rankings for Asian nations were largely due to their weak scores for democracy and personal freedoms.
"Many Asian nations have good economic fundamentals, but the Index tells us that true prosperity requires more than just money," Inboden said in a statement.
"Democratic institutions and personal freedom measures are letting some Asian nations down. Furthermore, countries which have low levels of economic stability, such as Cambodia, finish even further down in the overall rankings."
Cambodia came in the 93rd slot while China, with its tight political controls, came in 75th despite booming economic growth.
And the world's least prosperous country? According to the Legatum Index, it is Zimbabwe, with Sudan and Yemen close runners-up.
The index combines objective data and subjective responses to surveys. More details can be found on www.prosperity.com.
Writing by Miral Fahmy, editing by Ron Popeski