Switzerland tops the overall rankings of 148 economies in the Global Competitiveness Report 2013-2014, followed by Singapore and Finland, the World Economic Forum (WEF) announced Wednesday in Geneva.
According to the flagship report, the places of the above top three economies in the rankings don't change as compared to 2012-2013 rankings, with Switzerland holding the position as the most competitive economy for the fifth year running.
Germany moved up two notches to the 4th place and the United States reversed a four-year downward trend, rising two places to 5th as a result of a perceived improvement in the country's financial market as well as greater confidence in its public institutions.
Two other Asian economies, China's Hong Kong SAR (7th) and Japan (9th), feature in the top 10 of the rankings.
Among the BRICS economies, China (29th) continues to lead the group, ahead of South Africa (53rd), Brazil (56th), India (60th) and Russia (64th), and the gap between China and India has widened from eight places in 2006 to 31.
Thierry Geiger, the economist with the WEF who is in charge of the Asia part of the report, told Xinhua that China maintained its position of 29th in this year's rankings, unchanged from that of last year's, and the performance of China is stable and remained very strong by all standards, much better than most of the other large emerging economies.
"Presence in the top 30 for such a big economy given the stage of development is a quite a remarkable achievement," said Geiger, adding that China needs to focus on more sophisticated factors, such as high education, market efficiency, and technological adoption, in order to maintain and improve its competitiveness.
He attached special weight to market efficiency, saying that China needs to develop the private sector, create a more level playing field for small- and medium-sized enterprises, and provide better access to credits for those companies.
In Europe, efforts to tackle public debt and avoid a break-up of the euro have taken the focus off addressing deeper competitiveness issues, concluded the report which further noted that Southern European economies such as Spain (35th), Italy (49th), Portugal (51st) and notably Greece (91st) all need to continue addressing weaknesses in the functioning and efficiency of their markets, boost innovation and improve access to finance in order to help bridge the region's competitiveness divide.
In the Middle East and North Africa, Qatar (13th) tops the region's rankings, with the United Arab Emirates (19th) entering the top 20 for the first time.
In sub-Saharan Africa, Mauritius (45th) overtakes South Africa (53rd) as the region's most competitive economy, and the report also urged that given only eight countries in the region featuring in the top 100, profound efforts across the board are clearly needed to improve Africa's competitiveness.
In Latin America, the report pointed out that despite robust economic growth in previous years, the region continues to suffer from low rates of productivity and the results show overall stagnation in competitiveness performance. Chile (34th) continues to lead the regional rankings ahead of Panama (40th), Costa Rica (54th) and Mexico (55th), which all remain relatively stable.
Klaus Schwab, WEF founder and executive chairman, stressed the role of innovation.
"Innovation becomes even more critical in terms of an economy's ability to foster future prosperity," said Schwab in a statement, urging that it is vital for leaders from business, government and civil society to work collaboratively to create education systems and enable environments which foster innovation.
The Global Competitiveness Report's competitiveness ranking is based on the Global Competitiveness Index (GCI), calculated by drawing together data covering 12 categories, namely institutions, innovation, macroeconomic environment, health and primary education, higher education and training, goods market efficiency, labour market efficiency, financial market development, technological readiness, market size, business sophistication and innovation.