Singapore becomes world’s most competitive economy

29/5 2019 15:30

Advanced tech infrastructure, skilled workers, favourable immigration laws and other factors propel city to No 1 spot on IMD Business School’s annual rankings
US falls two spots to third place as confidence boost from tax cuts fades and hi-tech exports weaken, while Hong Kong remains second

Singapore leapfrogged Hong Kong and the US to take the top spot among the world’s most competitive economies for the first time in nine years.

The city state’s advanced technological infrastructure, availability of skilled workers, favourable immigration laws, and efficiency for starting businesses supported its rise to the No 1 spot, the Switzerland-based IMD Business School said in its annual rankings.

The US fell two spots to third place as the confidence boost from tax cuts faded and high-technology exports weakened.

Asia-Pacific economies performed particularly well, with 11 of 14 in the region either improving or maintaining their rankings. Hong Kong, in second place, was credited with a “benign tax and business policy environment” and access to business finance.

“In a year of high uncertainty in global markets due to rapid changes in the international political landscape as well as trade relations, the quality of institutions seem to be the unifying element for increasing prosperity,” Arturo Bris, director of the IMD World Competitiveness Centre that compiles the ranking, said in a statement.

The rankings, which started in 1989, assess 63 economies on 235 indicators. The gauges include hard data such as unemployment, economic growth and government spending on health and education, as well as soft data from a survey of international business executives on topics such as social cohesion, globalisation, and corruption.

The economies were judged in four categories: economic performance, infrastructure, government efficiency and business efficiency.

Indonesia was a stand-out in the Asia-Pacific’s solid showing. Southeast Asia’s biggest economy was “most improved” in the region as it surged 11 spots to No 32 on greater efficiency in government and better infrastructure and business conditions.

Thailand jumped five places to No 25, thanks to a boost to foreign direct investment and productivity. Japan, on the other hand, fell five spots amid sluggish economic growth, high government debt and weakening business conditions.

The picture was decidedly more mixed for European economies. Britain fell to No 23 from No 20 last year, which IMD attributed to Brexit uncertainties.

Norway dropped out of the top 10, and Denmark and the Netherlands each dropped two spots while holding onto top-10 status. Ireland advanced five spots to No 7 while Switzerland improved by one to remain the most competitive European economy.

Elsewhere, Saudi Arabia made its mark as the biggest climber in the 2019 tally, advancing 13 places to No 26 on strong investment in education. Embattled Venezuela, by a long shot, finished in last place.

IMD World Competitiveness Ranking 2019

1. Singapore

2. Hong Kong

3. US

4. Switzerland

5. UAE

6. Netherlands

7. Ireland

8. Denmark

9. Sweden

10. Qatar

14. China