US regains top slot in competitiveness ranking
The United States has regained the top spot in a global economic competitiveness ranking thanks to a rebound of its financial sector, abundant technological innovation and successful companies.
In its annual ranking, released Thursday by the Swiss-based Institute for Management Development (IMD), the United States jumped back from the number two slot in which it found itself in 2012.
Last year's frontrunner, Hong Kong, meanwhile fell to third place in the 2013 ranking, while Switzerland moved up to second from third.
"We base our study on 333 criteria, two-thirds of them statistics and the remaining third opinion polls," Stephane Garelli, head of the IMD World Competitiveness Center, told AFP.
"In the end, the golden rules of competitiveness are simple: manufacture, diversify, export, invest in infrastructure, educate, support SMEs, enforce fiscal discipline, and above all maintain social cohesion," he explained.
Running from table-topper the United States to last-placed Venezuela, the 60-economy ranking also helps flag up broader economic trends.
"While the eurozone remains stalled, the robust comeback of the US to the top of the competitiveness rankings, and better news from Japan, have revived the austerity debate," said Garelli.
"Structural reforms are unavoidable, but growth remains a prerequisite for competitiveness. In addition, the harshness of austerity measures too often antagonises the population. In the end, countries need to preserve social cohesion to deliver prosperity," he added.
The top 30 includes 10 members of the austerity-gripped European Union, with Sweden in fourth, a notch up from 2012, and Germany and Britain at an unchanged ninth and 18th respectively.
Ireland rose from 20th to 17th, and France from 29th to 28th.
Japan also climbed from 27th place to 24th.
The IMD underlined the impact of Japan's "Abenomics" -- Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's drive to ramp up the money supply and offer fiscal stimulus -- saying it seemed to be having an impact on the dynamism of the world's third-largest economy.
Fortunes were mixed for the BRICS group of emerging economies, made up of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
China climbed to 21st from 23rd, and Russia to 42nd from 48th.
But India slipped from 35th to 40th, Brazil from 46th to 51st, and South Africa from 50th to 53rd.
"Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa are immensely different in their competitiveness strategies and performance, but the BRICS remain lands of opportunities," said Garelli.
© 2013 AFP