Is it mountain air? Switzerland emerges as world's most competitive economy
Since suffering a rare blip in 2008, when it was nudged into second place by the United States, the Swiss economy has maintained an efficient but unshakeable grip on the top spot in the WEF annual ranking .
WEF economist Thierry Geiger said Switzerland had a virtuous circle of infrastructure, institutions and education, but at the heart of its success was the way it created and used talent.
“That is really the secret of Switzerland, this ability to innovate, supported by a whole range of enabling factors,” he said.
However, after almost a decade at the top, Switzerland is at risk from complacency and populism. The ageing population could undermine the innovation miracle by shutting the door to foreign talent in one of the referendums that make Swiss law, he said.
“We see a proliferation of such referendums on everything, some of them are kind of dangerous, they could really endanger and jeopardise Switzerland’s prosperity,” Geiger said.
The World Economic Forum, the same organisation that runs the Davos meeting of global powerbrokers each January, bases its rankings on a dozen drivers of competitiveness and a survey of business leaders.
“Global competitiveness will be more and more defined by the innovative capacity of a country,” Klaus Schwab, WEF founder and executive chairman, said in a statement.
Besides Switzerland, the top 10 remained the same as a year ago, although there was some shuffling of the order. The United States climbed over Singapore into second place, and Hong Kong jumped three places to sixth, leapfrogging Japan in ninth spot
Britain slipped one place to eighth. It has not yet dropped in the rankings because of its Brexit negotiations with the European Union but it is expected to do so, the WEF said.
China inched up one place to 27th, well ahead of 38th-ranked Russia and India, which was in 40th position.
The wooden spoon went to Yemen, a poor country further devastated by civil war, economic collapse, cholera and near-famine conditions, which was in 137th place.