By Andy Sambidge
World Economic Forum list shows UAE has risen seven places to 12th to overtake Qatar
The UAE regained its title of the Middle East's most competitive country after rising to 12th position globally in the Global Competitiveness Report 2014-2015 released on Wednesday by the World Economic Forum.
The UAE rose seven places compared to last year's list and overtook Qatar which fell three places to 16th.
Affected by geopolitical instability, the Middle East and North Africa depicted a mixed picture, WEF said.
Saudi Arabia was ranked 24th, down from 20th last year while Kuwait also fell four places to 40th. Bahrain (44th) dropped one place while Oman (46th) was the worst Gulf-based performer after falling 13 places compared to last year.
Their rankings, out of a total of 144 economies covered by the list, contrasted starkly with countries in North Africa, where the highest placed country was Morocco (72nd).
Ensuring structural reforms, improving the business environment, and strengthening the innovative capacity so as to enable the private sector to grow and create jobs are of key importance to the region, WEF said in the report.
On the UAE's performance, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the UAE's vice-president and prime minister, said: "Despite the many challenges facing our region, our main focus has been, and will remains on progressing in our nation, and developing our economy for the on-going welfare of our citizens.
"Our message to those around us is that the key to true stability lies in the creation of real development."
Globally, the WEF report said the health of the global economy is at risk, despite years of bold monetary policy, as countries struggle to implement structural reforms necessary to help economies grow.
In its annual assessment of the factors driving countries’ productivity and prosperity, the report identified uneven implementation of structural reforms across different regions and levels of development as the biggest challenge to sustaining global growth.
It also highlighted talent and innovation as two areas where leaders in the public and private sectors need to collaborate more effectively in order to achieve sustainable and inclusive economic development.
According to the report, the United States improved its competitiveness position for the second consecutive year, climbing two places to third on the back of gains to its institutional framework and innovation scores.
Elsewhere in the top five, Switzerland topped the ranking for the sixth consecutive year, Singapore remained second and Finland (4th) and Germany (5th) both dropped one place.
They were followed by Japan (6th), which climbed three places and Hong Kong (7th), which remained stable. Netherlands (8th), the United Kingdom (9th) and Sweden (10th) rounded up the top 10 of the most competitive economies in the world.
“The strained global geopolitical situation, the rise of income inequality, and the potential tightening of the financial conditions could put the still tentative recovery at risk and call for structural reforms to ensure more sustainable and inclusive growth,” said Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum.