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Nikkei Markets

Singapore pips US, Hong Kong to top competitiveness ranking

Indonesia makes the most improvement in Asia-Pacific in IMD's tally

Singapore was placed third last year and is returning to first position for the first time since 2010.   © Reuters

SINGAPORE (Nikkei Markets) -- Singapore overtook the U.S. and Hong Kong to the top spot in a global competitiveness ranking, boosted by factors such as its advanced technological infrastructure, skilled labor, favorable immigration laws, and business friendly ways.

Hong Kong kept its second place while the U.S., which led last year, slipped to third in the annual tally compiled by Swiss business school IMD.

The initial boost from President Donald Trump's first wave of tax policies appears to have faded, IMD said, adding that while the U.S. still set the pace globally for levels of infrastructure and economic performance, its competitiveness was hit by higher fuel prices, weaker hi-tech exports and fluctuations in the value of the dollar.

IMD arrives at the rankings by evaluating aspects such as economic growth, unemployment and government spending on welfare as well as social cohesion and corruption.

"In a year of high uncertainty in global markets...the quality of institutions seems to be the unifying element for increasing prosperity," said Arturo Bris, director of the IMD World Competitiveness Center.

Overall, Asia-Pacific economies showed much improvement with 11 of 14 countries either climbing up in the rankings or holding steady.

Singapore was placed third last year and is returning to first position for the first time since 2010.

As one of Asia's main business and financial centers, the city-state often scores highly in global rankings. Last month, French business school INSEAD ranked Singapore as number two globally based on the school's Global Talent Competitiveness Index, which measures a country's ability to compete for talent.

Looking ahead, IMD said Singapore must strengthen the ability of its companies to scale up and create deeper local and international partnerships to access new markets.

Elsewhere in Southeast Asia, Indonesia jumped 11 spots to the 32nd rank while Thailand rose five places to 25th.

The center identified Hong Kong's benign tax and business policy environment and Indonesia's increased government efficiency and better infrastructure and business conditions as helping their performance.

Indonesia has the lowest cost for labor among the 63 economies, IMD said, while Thailand has increased foreign direct investments and productivity.

Japan was among the losers, sliding five places to 30th hampered by a sluggish economy, government debt and a weakening business environment. China slipped one place to 14th.

Turning to Europe, IMD said most economies are on the decline or standing still. The Nordic states, traditionally a powerhouse for competitiveness, failed to make significant progress this year, while the UK slipped three spots to 23 due to Brexit uncertainty.

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