What Makes an Economy Competitive?

The World Economic Forum has been assessing the global economy for 40 years, and has recently issued its 2018 Global Competitiveness Report. One of the big conclusions is that how the economies adapt to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) will impact their further development – or stagnation. 4IR fuses the physical, digital and biological spheres, propelled by innovations in the Internet of Things, nanotechnology, robotics, artificial intelligence and more. 

The index measures 98 indicators in 140 economies, organised into 12 so-called pillars. The pillars are structured around four main components: enabling environment (institutions, infrastructure, ICT adoption and macroeconomic stability), human capital (health and skills), markets (product market, labour market, financial system and market size) and the innovation ecosystem (business dynamism and innovation capability). The report measures not only market success, but also socioeconomic outcomes, such as life satisfaction. 

“Productivity is the single most important driver of growth in 2018,” said Thierry Geiger, Head, Research and Regional Impact, Future of Economic Progress at the World Economic Forum. “With the Fourth Industrial Revolution in full swing, there is a need to rethink the drivers of competitiveness and therefore of long-term growth.” 

Geiger explained that the new methodology is all-encompassing: “Those new drivers include adaptability and agility of all stakeholders, including the governments. To what extent are they able to embrace change and adapt to change and upgrade their economies?”. 

One of the biggest problem discussed at the World Economic Forum was how the economies adapt to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).

At the top of the rankings is the United States, closely followed by Singapore, Germany, Switzerland and Japan. Overall, the top 11 countries scored above 80 points out of 100, with US scoring 85.6. While a leader in the business dynamism, it lagged in health, with a life expectancy placing it in 46th place. Not surprisingly, Singapore received a near-perfect score of 95.7 in infrastructure for its transportation system. But even if it’s an economy most prepared for the future, it was ranked below Finland in labour on having a digitally skilled workforce. Germany showed particular strengths in innovation capability, business dynamism and health. The report also cited two main trends in low-scoring economies: the quality of their institutions, and the lack of attention to the innovation process. 

However, while the Index has the word “competitive” in its title, the report is not a competition, but rather a guide to how, in the face of new technologies and challenges, economies can benefit from learning from each other. With Asgardia’s First Economic Forum in full gear in Nice, the Global Competitiveness Report is providing insights into how to create a successfully economy that has a strong government and infrastructure, encourages and rewards its participants, and promotes innovations. 

“Competitiveness is neither a competition nor a zero-sum game - all countries can become more prosperous,” said Saadia Zahihi, Member of the Managing Board and Head of the Centre for New Economy and Society. “With opportunities for economic leapfrogging, diffusion of innovative ideas across borders and new forms of value creation, the Fourth Industrial Revolution can level the playing field for all economies. But technology is not a silver bullet on its own. Countries must invest in people and institutions to deliver on the promise of technology.”