The World Economic Forum (WEF) has rated Singapore as the world's most economically competitive country, overtaking the U.S. to reach the top spot among 141 countries and regions.
In the Global Competitiveness Report 2019, published in early October, the WEF calls on policymakers and governments to better anticipate an evolving economic landscape and implement the social policies needed to prepare their populations for the fourth industrial revolution. 10 years on from the global financial crisis, the WEF has warned that the global economy remains locked in a cycle of low or flat productivity growth, despite central banks investing more than $10 trillion.
The report’s index maps out the competitive landscape of 141 economies based on more than 100 indicators, sorted into a dozen categories. Those categories include financial system, market size, and capacity to innovate.
Asia-Pacific was named the most competitive region in the world, followed by Europe and North America. Joining the U.S. and Singapore in the top five were Hong Kong, the Netherlands and Switzerland. Hong Kong has risen four places from 2018 but it’s worth noting that the WEF’s data collection was concluded before political unrest and protests in the territory intensified.
The report warned the changing geopolitical context and rising trade tensions are fueling uncertainty and could precipitate a slowdown, although an accompanying press release pointed out that “some of this year’s better performers appear to be benefiting from the trade feud through trade diversion”. In addition to Singapore, another standout is Vietnam. It was this year’s most improved country, coming in at 67th on the index, up ten places from last year.
Singapore, was named the most competitive economy in the world, scoring highly for its public sector, labour force, diversity and infrastructure. On life expectancy, Singapore was ranked number one, with newborn children expected to live until the age of 74. For comparison, life expectancy in the U.S. is 66 years old.
Despite losing out on the top spot, the U.S. still received the highest score in the world in several categories, including venture capital availability and business dynamism. Innovation cannot be overlooked as a key factor in a country’s competitiveness.
As the WEF’s founder and executive chairman, Klaus Schwab, explains, "the report shows that those countries which integrate into their economic policies an emphasis on infrastructure, skills, research and development and support those left behind are more successful compared to those that focus only on traditional factors of growth".