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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 October, 2004, 13:48 GMT 14:48 UK
Nordic nations 'most competitive'
Finnish President Tarja Halonen and US President George W Bush at a NATO summit in Istanbul earlier this year
The Finnish and US presidents head the most competitive countries
Nordic countries are leading the way in global economic competitiveness, according to a new business survey.

Finland topped the World Economic Forum's (WEF) rankings as the most competitive economy in the world for the second year running.

The US took second position, followed by Sweden, Taiwan, Denmark and Norway, while the UK was 11th and Chad bottom of the list of 104 nations.

The rankings are drawn from a WEF poll of 8,700 business leaders worldwide.

Private innovation

The Swiss-based think tank's Global Competitiveness Report aims to reflect a broad range of factors affecting the status of a country's economy, including a stable macroeconomic environment, the quality of public institutions and the level of technological development.

The WEF praised Finland for the quality of its public institutions and the high levels of innovation nurtured by its private sector.

"The Nordic countries are characterised by excellent macroeconomic management overall," said Augusto Lopez-Claros, chief economist and director of the WEF's Global Competitiveness Programme.

"They are all running budget surpluses - they have extremely low levels of corruption, with their firms operating in a legal environment in which there is widespread respect for contracts and the rule of law, and their private sectors are on the forefront of technological innovation."

This is the third time in the past four years that Finland has headed the competitiveness survey.

'Poor infrastructure'

The US's second place ranking was largely down to its technological supremacy, although that was slightly offset by a weaker performance in areas covering public institutions, the WEF said.

The UK was praised for promoting a good business environment, but the WEF cited its relatively poor infrastructure and inadequately-educated workforce as two key problems facing the country.

However, the UK's eleventh place ranking took it above Germany (13), France (27) and Italy (47).

Estonia was marked out as the most competitive of the ten new entrant countries which joined the EU in May this year, coming in at twentieth place.

Elsewhere, China (46) continued to have a mixed performance, the WEF said, with a stable macroeconomic environment offset by too much red tape and poor accounting standards.

South Africa (41) was named as the most competitive African economy, while Chile (22) was the most competitive South American economy.

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