Most Competitive Countries: What The Most Competitive Countries Do to Gain the Competitiveness Race

Most Competitive Countries are those that, from the IMD World Competitiveness Center methodology, achieve excellence in four pillars of performance: economic performance, government efficiency, business efficiency, and infrastructure. There is no single recipe that the most competitive countries follow. Very often, when asked by business executives or political officials what the key to achieving prosperity and competitiveness is, we point out that it is not a question of improving certain economic indicators, but to focus on the unique resources and capabilities of the country. Only by finding what is special about one's economy, can countries sustain long-term performance.

A detailed analysis of the ten most competitive countries in the IMD country rankings shows no common pattern in terms of economic growth and development, economic history, access to natural resources or even geographical location.

The United States, to start with, is a country whose prosperity model is based on: a strong domestic demand; its dominance in innovation and entrepreneurship; a leading role in technology and education; and a massive economy rich in natural resources. By all means, the economic efficiency of the US model results from the country's natural propensity towards business creation and risk taking. It has been in the top three of the most competitive countries in the last 15 years.

Below the United States, a series of small economies (some of them city-countries) base their global competitiveness on a business-friendly regulation, even at the expense of individual rights and democracy. These are the conditions in Singapore and the United Arab Emirates. Switzerland, in contrast, is a country with strong economic indicators but a small economy, with a very large foreign and financial sectors, high productivity and economic efficiency. They are among the most competitive countries in the world despite their small size, as the IMD competitiveness index penalizes small economies.

Within the top-ten of competitiveness we also have European Union countries like Germany, Denmark and Sweden, as well as other large European, non-EU members such as Norway. These countries display very strong business values that result in a very high quality of life and government efficiency. Out of the ten most competitive economies in our ranking, five of them (including Switzerland) are European.

Finally, Canada deserves a special consideration. It is a global economy whose strength comes from its access to massive reserves of natural resources. In the last years, its development has been related to the success of NAFTA (North American Trade Agreement) and the positive spillovers from its stronger economic ties to the United States. The competitive landscape of the country is now better, having exposed itself to the thermometer of foreign competition.

The competitive advantage of nations therefore derives from diversity. There is no single model of success. Big and small, north and south, exporting and importing, any nation if it focuses on the right priorities can be among the most competitive countries.


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Suggested websites

The IMD World Competitiveness Center's Yearbook