Britain nearly slips out of top 10 in worldwide competitiveness rankings

The UK slipped one place to tenth in the forum’s annual competitiveness league table for 2014, falling behind Sweden, as other countries improved at a faster rate. Britain ranked highly in the quality of its institutions, solid scientific research and business sophistication, but was let down by the size of the deficit and poor maths and science education.

Germany, Japan and the United States were among the leading economies that beat Britain. France finished 22nd. Switzerland topped the index, with Singapore finishing second, both holding their previous positions.

The Times says that the lower ranking will disappoint George Osborne, who has put competitiveness at the heart of his economic policy by cutting business taxes, trimming red tape and overhauling planning regulations. However, the findings are likely to strengthen his resolve to eliminate the budget deficit during this parliament.

“The UK improves its performance across the board, but not enough to keep up with its peers,” the report said. “The country will have to continue efforts to improve its macroeconomic environment: the government deficit is still very high and public debt has doubled since 2007.”

Britain ranked 118th out of 140 on the deficit and 123rd on debt. It also finished way down the table on overreliance on imports, at 115th, and weak exports, 102nd. The country’s education system was also ranked below other leading nations at 21st. On maths and science, Britain ranked 46th.

The WEF praised Britain’s openness and backing for the digital economy, which helped its ranking. The UK was the third-best country in terms of technological readiness.

Globally, the report warned that depressed economic activity and persistently high unemployment left the world exposed to another slump.