US tops World Economic Forum competitiveness survey

GENEVA - The United States on Wednesday regained first place in an annual survey of competitive economies compiled by the World Economic Forum, which highlighted US private enterprise and the sheer scale of its economy.

By (AFP)

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Published: Wed 31 Oct 2007, 4:43 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 11:31 PM

Switzerland was second in the ranking, ahead of a brace of Nordic countries in the top six as well as Germany (fifth), Singapore (seventh), Japan (eighth) Britain (ninth) and the Netherlands (10th).

Switzerland, which had been ranked first last year by the elite think tank, was praised in the WEF’s report for its ‘sophisticated business culture,’ the quality of its public institutions and capacity for innovation.

Nordic nations Denmark, Sweden and Finland outperformed the top two with their macroeconomic environment, offering budget surpluses and low levels of public debt according to the WEF.

The index combines a survey of the opinions of 11,000 corporate executives with the business-oriented club’s own assessment.

Many shifts were down to changes in the method of measurement compared to the index last year, when the US was downgraded from first to sixth place due to growing concern about the country’s finances.

Despite the renewed top ranking for the United States, the WEF said the financial problems remained. It criticised the US institutional environment and macroeconomic imbalances.

Xavier Sala-i-Martin, co-author of the report, warned that those weaknesses ‘continue to present a risk to the country’s overall competitiveness potential and to the global economy as a whole.’

South Korea and Hong Kong stood just outside the top ten, while China ranked 34th and India was 48th.

China’s government-managed macroeconomic stability and huge market size—which offers Chinese companies major opportunities for economies of scale—were praised, in contrast to its ‘weak’ financial markets, higher education, institutions and companies.

India’s business sophistication and potential for innovation were well marked, but it suffered from the 125th worst government deficit in the 131 nation survey, the WEF said.

Estonia, ranked 27th, was rated as the most competitive of the 12 nations that joined the European Union in 2004.

The survey said the efficiency of Estonian government, management of public finances and thrust for new techologies outshone many established EU members, and stood in stark contrast with fellow recent EU member Poland.

Fifty-first placed Poland suffered from weak and deteriorating public finances, ‘poor marks’ for its institutional environment and ‘low trust’ in the country’s politicians, according to the report.

The WEF’s assessment has proved controversial, partly because of its emphasis on business opinion and repeated changes in its method.

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