Switzerland top of competitive nations list

SWITZERLAND now tops the list of the most economically competitive nations, according to a report by the World Economic Forum.

The Global Competitiveness Report 2009/10 was released yesterday in Dalian, China, ahead of the WEF's annual meeting. Switzerland swapped places with the United States, which ranked second out of 134 countries this year due to "weakening in its financial markets and macroeconomic stability".

South Africa came out tops of African rankings at 45th place, followed by Mauritius and Botswana.

The report said this about South Africa: "The country continues to benefit from the large size of its economy, particularly by regional standards (it is ranked 24th in the market size pillar).

"South Africa does well on measures of the quality of institutions and factor allocation, such as intellectual property protection (24th), the accountability of private institutions (5th), and goods market efficiency (35th)," it said.

South Africa ranked poorly in terms of labour market efficiency (90th), inflexible hiring and firing practices (125th) and labour relations (121st).

The report also revealed that South Africa only had a 15percent university enrolment rate, which placed the country in 94th place. Business costs of crime (133rd) and the health of the workforce (127th) remain serious concerns for South Africa.

Economist Mike Schussler said while South Africa had some of the highest corporate governance standards in the world, labour relations and education problems threatened future rankings.

"In various international tests of students from emerging economies, South Africa regularly comes in last place. In some maths and literacy contests we are regularly beaten by Botswana and Ghana, who spend less than us," he said.

Sasfin economist David Shapiro said the spread in performance measures was reflective of the South African economy, where economic disparities continued.

"We have a world-class stock exchange, great legal and financial systems but we are still not making progress in terms of skills development, labour and education issues," he said.

Dawie Roodt, Efficient Group economist, was not surprised by the rankings: "I'm just glad we haven't lost ground, especially considering recent events."