Finland surged four places to take top spot in the World Economic Forum’s annual chart of the globe’s most competitive economies.

Buoyed by its advanced technology sector – including mobile phone giant Nokia – Finland soared from fifth in 2000 to elbow the US, last year’s winner, [WAMN: 07-Sep-00], into second place.

The chart, which the WEF argues is an accurate predictor of economic growth prospects, is based on data from 75 countries and surveys of 4,600 business executives. It omits most small countries and nearly all sub-Saharan Africa.

America’s decline is in part related to its tech-led slowdown, though the WEF emphasised that the change at the top was mainly due to Finnish factors: “This country’s remarkable turnaround over the past decade serves as evidence of how quickly an economy’s prospects can be transformed by strong political institutions, a focus on technology, and sound macroeconomic management.”

Other countries registering notable rises were Australia (up 6 places to number 5), Norway (up 9 to 6), Iceland (up 7 to 16) and South Korea (up 5 to 28). However, the UK and Ireland tumbled out of the top ten due to slowing growth and concerns that policy reform has lost momentum.

The Top Ten economies are:

(1) Finland
(2) United States
(3) Canada
(4) Singapore
(5) Australia
(6) Norway
(7) Taiwan
(8) Netherlands
(9) Sweden
(10) New Zealand

Hong Kong slipped from the leading ten, while Russia surprisingly slumped nine places to 63, below Vietnam. A number of new countries were added to the survey this year, the highest placed of which was Finland’s neighbour Estonia, a prime candidate for entry into the European Union, at number 29 leading Greece, Poland and the Czech Republic.

Bringing up the rear was Zimbabwe, whose economy has suffered in the last year from the policies of president Robert Mugabe.

News source: BBC Online Business News (UK)