Report: Saudi Arabia 3rd most competitive in the Arab world

The report said the Arab world economies are among the top 30 most competitive in the world: These are UAE (16); Qatar (18) and Saudi Arabia (29th). (Shutterstock)

Saudi Arabia ranks third in the Arab World, according to The Global Competitiveness Report 2016-2017, which was published Tuesday.

The report said the Arab world economies are among the top 30 most competitive in the world: These are UAE (16, up 1); Qatar (18, down 4) and Saudi Arabia (29th, down 4). The highest oil-importing economy is Jordan (up 1 to 63).

“The drop in energy prices has heightened the urgency of advancing competitiveness agendas across the Arab world. With three economies in the top thirty; the United Arab Emirates (16); Qatar (18); and Saudi Arabia (29) there remains a clear need for all energy-exporting nations to further diversify their economies and for much greater effort to improve basic competitiveness among the region’s energy-importing nations,” the report noted.

Nonetheless, the report said the region needs to get better at the more complex areas of competitiveness if economies are to truly diversify. “In our innovation and sophistication pillar, the UAE holds firm on 21, Qatar falls 6 places to 18, Saudi Arabia drops 7 places to 36 and Jordan drops one place to 40th,” the report noted.

It further said high-functioning markets can drive competitiveness.

The UAE (3rd) and Qatar (7th) boast highly efficient goods markets. The next highest is Bahrain on 22nd. Among the best ways to unlock entrepreneurism for the region would include further reforms in three key areas; higher education & training, goods market efficiency and labor market efficiency, the report added.

In the global perspective, the report’s “data suggests that the degree to which economies are open to international trade in goods and service has been declining for 10 years and that this could hurt prosperity in the future. We also consider the impact of competitiveness on monetary stimulus packages such as quantitative easing and the increasingly important role technology and innovation is playing for emerging economies.”

For the eighth consecutive year, Switzerland ranks as the most competitive economy in the world, narrowly ahead of Singapore and the United States. Following them is Netherlands and then Germany. The latter has climbed four places in two years. The next two countries, Sweden (6) and the United Kingdom (7) both advance three places, with the latter’s GCI score being based on pre-Brexit data. The remaining three economies in the top ten; Japan (8), Hong Kong SAR (9) and Finland (10) all move backwards.

While European economies continue to dominate the top ten, there remains no end in sight for the region’s persisting north-south divide. Spain improves by one-point climbing to 32, however Italy drops back one place to 44 and Greece reverses 5 places to 86. France, the Eurozone’s second largest economy, climbs one place to 21. For all economies in Europe, maintaining and improving prosperity levels will depend heavily on their ability to harness innovation and the talents of their workforces.

There is some sign of convergence in the competitiveness of the world’s largest emerging markets. China, on 28, remains top among the BRICS grouping although another surge by India – which climbs 16 places to 39 – means there is now less of a gap between it and its peers. With both Russia and South Africa moving up two places to 43 and 47 respectively only Brazil is declining, falling six places to 81.

The competitiveness gap in East Asia and Pacific, meanwhile, is widening. Although 13 of the 15 economies covered consecutively since 2007 have been able to improve their GCI score over the past decade, this year sees reversals for some of the larger emerging markets in the region: Malaysia drops out of the top twenty, falling seven places to 25; Thailand drops two to 34; Indonesia falls 4 places to 41 while the Philippines drops ten to 57. A consistent theme for all the region’s developing countries is the need to make inroads into the more complex areas of competitiveness related to business sophistication and innovation if they are to break out of the middle-income trap.

Two countries in Latin America and the Caribbean make it into this year’s top 50. Chile, the outlier in the region on 33, climbs two places although the gap is closing with the second highest ranked economy, Panama (up 8 places to 42). Next comes Mexico which performs strongly with a 6-point climb to 51. Argentina and Colombia, the third and fourth largest economies in the region, rank 104 and 61 respectively.

One of the most improved nations in sub-Saharan Africa is Rwanda, which rises 6 places to 52. It is closing in on the region’s traditionally most competitive economies, Mauritius and South Africa, although both these countries register more modest improvements, climbing to 45 and 47 respectively. Lower down the ranking, Kenya climbs to 96, Ethiopia holds steady at 109 while Nigeria slips three to 127.

“To me, the interest in economic growth comes from the fact that it is potentially so important for improving human welfare. The Global Competitiveness Report helps us understand the drivers of growth and this edition comes at a time of stalling productivity, the main determinant of future growth,” said Xavier Sala-i-Martin, Professor of Economics at Columbia University.

The report is an annual assessment of the factors driving productivity and prosperity in 138 countries. The degree to which economies are open to international trade in goods and services is directly linked to both economic growth and a nation’s innovative potential. The trend, which is based on perception data from the Global Competitiveness Index (GCI)’s Executive Opinion Survey, is gradual and attributed mainly to a rise in non-tariff barriers although three other factors are also taken into account; burdensome customs procedures; rules affecting FDI and foreign ownership. It is most keenly felt in the high and upper middle-income economies.

“Declining openness in the global economy is harming competitiveness and making it harder for leaders to drive sustainable, inclusive growth,” said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum.

This article was first published by the Saudi Gazette on September 28, 2016.

Last Update: 09:27 KSA 12:27 - GMT 09:27