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By Mike Caggeso
The United States regained the top spot as the world's most competitive economy, moving from sixth place to oust Switzerland, according to an extensive and influential survey by the World Economic Forum.
Rounding out the top ten: Switzerland took second, followed by Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Finland, Singapore, Japan, United Kingdom and the Netherlands. Last place out of the 131 countries went to Chad.
Also worth mentioning: China moved from 54th to 34th place. Korea moved from
24th to 11th. Malaysia moved from 26th to 21st.
The rankings are calculated from public data and the Executive Opinion Survey, a comprehensive annual survey conducted by the World Economic Forum. The survey polled 11,000 business leaders in 131 countries. This year's list was expanded to include Puerto Rico, Libya, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Syria and Uzbekistan.
Michael E. Porter, one of the report's authors and Harvard business professor, said the report is both a measure and catalyst of global competition. More specifically, its broad swath of global business leaders unearths infrastructure specifics – education, health care, labor market efficiency, technological readiness, etc. – that allow researchers to pinpoint what countries are doing to help and hurt themselves.
"You can't just measure one thing because many aspects of an economy – the government system, political system – determine or impact competitiveness," Porter said an interview on the World Economic Forum's official YouTube site. "The report is first of all, an important process of really learning about the fundamental drivers of prosperity. It's a way of revealing what really matters."
Why the U.S. is Best
Xavier Sala-i-Martin, professor of economics at Columbia University and co-editor of the report, said the United States regularly tops the list for several reasons: it is the world's largest economy; it is highly competitive with itself, leading to higher innovation and creativity; and its universities collaborate with the business sector, emboldening the capacity to create new technology.
"However, some weaknesses, particularly related to macroeconomic imbalances, continue to present a risk to the country's overall competitiveness potential, and to the global economy as a whole," Sala-i-Martin said. "This danger has most recently been demonstrated by the fallout and contagion caused by the country's sub-prime mortgage crisis and the ensuing global credit crunch."
Jennifer Blanke, a senior economist at the World Economic Forum, said Europe's scattered performance tells a mixed story. She credited the high marks of Denmark, Sweden and Finland to their efficient governments and education systems. And though Eastern European countries rank 23rd and below, they are seen as heat seekers on the list because they are latching to the technology sector, Blanke said. However, Italy, one of the European Union's founding members, ranked 46th because of poor management of public finances and weak justice systems.
The bottom of the list is overwhelmingly comprised of sub-Saharan African countries.
Though the full report goes for 65 pounds (about $134), the World Economic Forum provides this year's full list and those from previous years. Also, its web site is chock full of YouTube interviews with authors of the report. Videos are in English, French and Spanish.
News and Related Story Links:
- World Economic Forum:
Global Competitiveness Report