Nordic countries dominate competitiveness rankings

Sep 29 2005 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Finland is the most competitive economy in the world, topping the rankings for the third consecutive year in World Economic Forum's latest Global Competitiveness Report.

The US is in second position, followed by Sweden, Denmark, Taiwan and Singapore. Iceland at seventh and Norway at ninth completed what the WEF termed the "stellar performance" of the Nordic countries.

Australia ranked in 10th place and Japan 12th, followed by the UK, Canada and Germany.

"The Nordic countries share a number of characteristics that make them extremely competitive, such as very healthy macroeconomic environments and public institutions that are highly transparent and efficient," said Augusto Lopez-Claros, Chief Economist and Director of the Forum's Global Competitiveness Programme.

"While the business communities in the Nordic countries point to high tax rates as a potential problem area, there is no evidence that these are adversely affecting the ability of these countries to compete effectively in world markets, or to provide to their respective populations some of the highest standards of living in the world."

"Indeed, the high levels of government tax revenue have delivered world-class educational establishments, an extensive safety net, and a highly motivated and skilled labour force."

The United States, as last year, ranked second. The WEF said that while it demonstrates overall technological supremacy, with a very powerful culture of innovation, this is partly offset by a weaker performance in other areas measured by the index.

The US has a relatively low rank of 20 for the contracts and law indicator, with particular concerns on the part of the business community about the government's ability to maintain arm's-length relationships with the private sector, and in the formulation of policies more generally.

But the greatest weakness identified in the US concerns the health of its macroeconomic environment, where it ranks a low 47th overall. This echoes the increasingly vocal international concerns about the macroeconomic imbalances in the US economy, especially as regards the public finances.

Britain was marked down to 13th place due to an inadequately-educated workforce, excessive tax and government regulation and poor infrastructure.

But other EU countries fared far worse. France only made 30th spot, while Italy lagged at 47th, just ahead of Poland at 51st.

In contrast, Estonia, ranked 20th for the second year in a row, and which is by a significant margin the most competitive economy among the 10 countries that joined the EU last year.