Northern Europe and key east Asian countries are the most competitive economies in the world, retaining their positions in the top 10 of...

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GENEVA — Northern Europe and key east Asian countries are the most competitive economies in the world, retaining their positions in the top 10 of a survey released yesterday by the World Economic Forum.

For the third consecutive year, Finland has the most competitive economy, followed by the United States, according to a survey of almost 11,000 business leaders in the “Global Competitiveness Report.”

Rounding out the top 10 in the survey — expanded this year to include 117 countries — were Sweden, Denmark, Taiwan, Singapore, Iceland, Switzerland, Norway and Australia.

The success of the Nordics is based on their “very healthy macroeconomic environments and public institutions that are highly transparent and efficient, with general agreement within society on the spending priorities to be met in the government budget,” said Augusto Lopez-Claros, director of the Geneva-based institute’s global competitiveness program.

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The United States ranked second because it “demonstrates overall technological supremacy, with a very powerful culture of innovation,” the forum said.

Japan slipped to No. 12 from No. 9 last year as a result of poor management of its public finances.

China dropped for the second straight year to No. 49 from No. 44 in 2003, as the survey said it continues “to suffer from institutional weaknesses.” India rose three places to No. 50.

The aim of the survey, the forum says, is to examine the range of factors including the levels of judicial independence, protection of property rights, government favoritism and corruption.

The highest-ranked Asian countries, Taiwan and Singapore, have applied good governance to lift “their citizens from poverty,” the study said.

Lopez-Claros said the Nordic nations were disproving the common belief that high taxes hinder competitiveness.

“Indeed, the high levels of government tax revenue have delivered world-class educational establishments, an extensive safety net and a highly motivated and skilled labor force,” he said.