World Economic Forum: US Competitiveness Slipping

Posted September 5th, 2012 at 11:00 am (UTC-5)
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The World Economic Forum says the United States, with the world's largest economy, is slipping in its global competitiveness because its political leaders have failed to deal with the country's rising debt and continued deficit spending.

On Wednesday, the day after the U.S. said its debt has reached a record $16 trillion, the Geneva-based group said the U.S. remains a world innovation powerhouse. But the WEF said business leaders are concerned about the public's lack of trust in the country's political leaders and “a perceived lack of government efficiency.”

The U.S. slipped two spots in the rankings to seventh worldwide, the fourth straight year it has fallen in the annual survey. The forum's lead economist, Jennifer Blanke, told VOA the U.S. has serious weaknesses that undermine its business competitiveness.

“There is … continuing concern about the macro-economic environment, continuing debt levels – the inability to get the spending under control and really political deadlock about how to even deal with this issue. And, this is leading to concern about political institutions in general. So, the business sector has concerns about its confidence in politicians to make the sorts of decisions that are needed going forward.”

The report said Switzerland, for the fourth consecutive year, is the most competitive country on its list of 144 nations, because of its excellent education system and substantial corporate spending on research and development. The WEF said Singapore, Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands follow the Swiss.

The report said the least competitive countries were Burundi, Sierra Leone, Haiti, Guinea and Yemen.

While Northern European countries hold six of the top 10 rankings, some debt-ridden countries in the southern part of the continent fell in the rankings, with financially troubled Greece dropping six spots to 96th. WEF economist Blanke said the continent's leaders need to boost economic growth as they grapple with the three-year-old debt crisis.

“The Europeans really need to deal with their sovereign debt crisis and get some of these countries growing again … They need to be thinking beyond the short-term. They need to get this macro-house in order, but then they need to be thinking about the sorts of investments that will get them there.”

After Singapore, the WEF report ranked four other Asian economies in the top 20: Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea.

In the Middle East and North Africa, Qatar led the way at 11th, followed by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Israel and Oman.

In sub-Saharan Africa, South Africa was ranked 52nd, followed by Mauritius at 54th.

In Latin America, Chile was ranked the highest, at 33rd, followed by Panama, Brazil, Mexico and Costa Rica.

The world's second largest economy, China, was ranked the 29th most competitive, down three spots from last year.

The World Economic Forum's 10 most competitive countries:

1. Switzerland

2. Singapore

3. Finland

4. Sweden

5. Netherlands

6. Germany

7. United States

8. United Kingdom

9. Hong Kong

10. Japan

The World Economic Forum's 10 least competitive countries:

135. Swaziland

136. Timor-Leste

137. Lesotho

138. Mozambique

139. Chad

140. Yemen

141. Guinea

142. Haiti

143. Sierra Leone

144. Burundi

The entire report can be seen at The country-by-country rankings can be seen at