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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 May, 2003, 10:26 GMT 11:26 UK
US and Finland 'most competitive'
A Wall Street trader and a Nokia phone
Financial services and IT have taken a pounding

The United States and Finland are the two most competitive economies in the world, according to a leading Swiss business school.

The US topped the International Institute for Management Development's (IMD) league table for the eighth year running, despite damage to its core IT and financial sectors.

While Finland came out on top among smaller nations, the first time countries with fewer than 20 million people have been measured separately.

Economic and business efficiency have held well up in both countries despite global conditions, the IMD said.

'No recession'

"The United States is resilient due to interest rate cuts and consumer spending," said the report by the IMD business school.

The survey indicated that out of the 59 countries surveyed, only four had seen their economies shrink in 2002.

1. USA
2. Australia
3. Canada
4. Malaysia
5. Germany
6. Taiwan

"The good news is that the world economy is not in recession," said IMD's Competitiveness Director, Stephane Garelli.

"The bad news is that no one realises it."

Trouble ahead?

The news is not all good for the US, as Mr Garelli pointed out.

"Two time bombs are ticking," he said, referring to sky-high corporate debt and shrinking pension funds.

1. Finland
2. Singapore
3. Denmark
4. Hong Kong
5. Switzerland
6. Luxembourg

On the public sector side, US President George W Bush's plans for higher budget deficits and sweeping tax cuts are likely to continue weakening the dollar and sucking in resources from everyone else.

"It will be hard for developing nations to raise capital because the US economy would drain most of the world's financial resources," he said.

Europe, meanwhile, was suffering from slow economic reform and high deficits, he said.

But new EU member states from Eastern Europe could help revitalise a sclerotic regional economy, he added.

The IMD said it ranked countries primarily on the basis of international, regional and national data and on its own survey of business executives.

It considers economic performance, government and business efficiency, education and other factors it calls infrastructure.

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