GENEVA: The US economy topped the World Economic Forum's annual global competitiveness survey for the first time since the 2007-2009 financial crisis, benefiting from a new ranking methodology this year, the Swiss body said on Tuesday (Oct 16).
Singapore came in at 2nd ahead of Germany (3rd), Switzerland (4th) - which was top last year - and Japan (5th).
The WEF, which hosts the annual Davos conference of business and political elites, said it used a new methodology for the 2018 edition of its annual Global Competitiveness Report to reflect shifts in a world increasingly transformed by new, digital technologies.
This year's report studied how 140 economies fared when measured against 98 indicators organised into 12 pillars, including institutions, infrastructure, macroeconomic stability, business dynamism and innovation capability.
Singapore had a score of 83.5 with "a very strong performance across the board", the WEF report said.
It ranked tops for transport infrastructure, health and trade openness.
"Openness is the defining feature of this global trading hub and one of the main drivers of its economic success. Singapore leads the Infrastructure pillar with a near-perfect score of 95.7. In particular, it boasts world-class transport infrastructure, services and connectivity," the WEF report said.
The United States achieved the "best overall performance" with a score of 85.6, WEF added.
"They're an innovation power house," Saadia Zahidi, a member of the WEF's managing board, told AFP.
"They do well in terms of labour markets, they do well in terms of market size, they do fairly well in terms of institutions," she said.
When asked if President Donald Trump could take credit for the ranking, Thierry Geiger, head of analytics and quantitive research at WEF, stressed that most of the data used in the report was from before Trump came to power last year.
"The things we capture are long-term drivers," he told reporters.
Zahidi meanwhile said "there are also a lot of worrying signs" for US competitiveness.
She pointed to the country's low score in terms of participation by women in the labour force, where it ranked 37th, as well as 40th place in terms of press freedom.
WEF also stressed the "importance of openness for competitiveness," including low-tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade and ease of hiring foreign labour.
"The data suggest that global economic health would be positively impacted by a return to greater openness and integration," WEF said.
Overall, the United States scored an average of 85.6 points when the nearly 100 indicators were measured on a scale of 0 to 100, and was followed by Singapore and Germany.
Switzerland meanwhile landed in fourth place, with a score of 82.6, after nine years at the top of the WEF ranking.
On average, countries around the world scored 60 points on the ranking - a full 40 points away from what WEF considers the optimal conditions for a competitive economy.
WEF founder Klaus Schwab said understanding and being open to the technologies driving the so-called "fourth industrial revolution" was vital to a country's competitiveness.
"I foresee a new global divide between countries who understand innovative transformations and those that don't," he said in a statement.
Zahidi however stressed that "technology is not a silver bullet on its own."
"Countries must invest in people and institutions to deliver on the promise of technology."