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Singapore is world's most competitive economy: WEF

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Republic beats US to top spot in rankings of 141 economies

In a difficult year for global trade and investors, Singapore has emerged as the world's most competitive economy, according to an updated global league table.

It scored 84.8 out of a possible 100, beating the US to the top spot in the rankings of 141 economies. The last time Singapore took the top spot was in 1999.

Amid the trade war it is embroiled in, the US scored 83.7 to fall from last year's top spot and score of 85.6. Singapore had scored 83.5 last year.

"Singapore improves from an already high base," the World Economic Forum said yesterday, adding that the country ranked first for infrastructure - one of the index's 12 assessment pillars.

Singapore was also number one for two of the index's other pillars - citizens' healthy life expectancy years and labour markets.

Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said on Facebook yesterday that the ranking reflected how economic fundamentals here continue to distinguish Singapore from its competitors.

"Nevertheless, as a small and open economy, we cannot afford to take things for granted," he added. Singapore must persevere to stay ahead given the current economic uncertainties and equip its workers with the right skills, he said.

The report said Singapore came in third for the skillsets of the current workforce, but 28th for the skills of its future workforce.

Singapore also scored well because of its financial system, market efficiency and macroeconomic stability.

"Singapore ranks second for the quality of public institutions, behind Finland, but its performance is undermined by limited checks and balances," the report said.

"Singapore notably ranks 124th on the Freedom of the Press Index - and lack of commitment to sustainability."

The difficulties of hiring foreign labour were also highlighted in the report with Singapore being ranked 93rd.

CIMB Private Banking economist Song Seng Wun said that the latest ranking showed policymakers' strong will in making Singapore the preferred economy to do business in. But it is also a reminder of the constraints that Singapore has to learn to work with, he added.

An example is the relatively small population of 5.6 million, he pointed out. Singapore has drawn some of the world's top technology companies such as Google, Facebook and LinkedIn here, but the local talent pool may not offer the necessary expertise that these companies need, Mr Song added.

Associate Professor Lawrence Loh at the National University of Singapore Business School said the ranking reinforces Singapore's standing as a global investment hub, a factor that could help the economy.

Singapore's rise was partly propelled by the slide in the performance of the US, which had fared better in trade openness last year."Despite an overall weaker performance this year, the US remains one of the most competitive economies in the world. It is still an innovation powerhouse, ranking second on the innovation capability pillar and first in terms of business dynamism," the report noted.