Singapore overtakes US, Hong Kong to be world’s most competitive economy
Singapore is the world’s most competitive economy in a yearly ranking of 63 economies released on Wednesday by Switzerland-based research group IMD World Competitiveness Centre.

Singapore’s return to the top spot – its first time since 2010 – was due to an advanced technological infrastructure, the availability of skilled labour, favourable immigration laws and efficient ways to set up new businesses, the report said. Out of the four key categories that were assessed, Singapore made it to the top five for three of them, namely economic performance (5th), government efficiency (3rd) and business efficiency (5th). For the final category of infrastructure, it was ranked sixth.

Hong Kong – the only other Asian economy in the overall top 10 – held on to the second spot due to a benign tax and business policy environment, as well as access to business finance.  The United States, which was last year’s leader, slipped to the third position.

The report, which has been released every year since 1989, said the initial confidence boost from US President Donald Trump’s first wave of tax policies “appears to have faded”. The competitiveness of the world’s biggest economy was also hit by higher fuel prices, weaker high-tech exports and fluctuations in the value of the US dollar, researchers added.

Rounding up the top five were Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates. The former moved up one spot due to economic growth, currency stability and high-quality infrastructure, while the latter climbed two positions to be ranked fifth due to strong performances in the areas of business and government efficiency.

For this year’s ranking of 63 countries, ranked using 235 indicators, Asian economies “emerged as a beacon for competitiveness” with 11 out of 14 economies either moving up the charts or holding on to their positions, the report said. For instance, Indonesia (32nd) leapfrogged 11 spots – the region’s biggest mover – thanks to increased efficiency in the government sector, as well as better infrastructure and business conditions. Thailand (25th) advanced five places, propelled by an increase in foreign direct investments and productivity.

Among the rest, Taiwan (16th), India (43rd) and the Philippines (46th) saw improvements, while China (14th) and South Korea (28th) slid down one spot. The biggest underperformer is Japan (30th), which fell five places on the back of a sluggish economy, government debt and a weakening business environment.

On the other hand, competitiveness in Europe, with the exception of Switzerland and Ireland, took a hit amid economic uncertainty. The Nordic nations, traditionally a powerhouse region for competitiveness, have failed to make significant progress this year, the report said. Ongoing uncertainty over Brexit saw the United Kingdom fall three spots to 23rd, while Portugal posted the biggest fall in the region with a drop of six places to the 39th spot.

Source: CNA