The economies of the worldâ€™s nations are ranked by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in terms of how competitive they are, releasing the results in a yearly Global Competitiveness Report. The Forum attempts to map out which of the worldâ€™s economies are most competitive and this yearâ€™s report contains more countries than ever before, offering data on 142 economies and thus remaining the most comprehensive document of its kind in the world.
But the report defines competitiveness in vague terminology.Â Unfortunately, crisply definable figures like GDP or unemployment figures canâ€™t give a clear idea of a concept like competitiveness. The reportâ€™s authors define competitiveness as â€˜the set of institutions, policies, and factors that determine the level of productivity of a countryâ€™ and go on to explain that there are twelve â€˜pillars of competitiveness:â€™ Institutions, Infrastructure, Macroeconomic Environment, Health and Primary Education, Higher Education and Training, Goods Market Efficiency, Labour Market Efficiency, Financial Market Development, Technological Readiness, Market Size, Business Sophistication, and Innovation. While itâ€™s obvious that complex, dynamic concepts require multiple inputs â€“ the reasoning behind using the quality-of-life index rather than simple GDP/person type economic measurements in assessing how genuinely prosperous a nation is, for instance -Â the report sometimes seems to fall into the trap of defining one nebulous concept in terms of another. The section explaining the Ninth Pillar, Technological Readiness, begins with the words, â€˜in todayâ€™s globalized world,â€™ a phrase calculated to imply that the author has run out of things to say while there is still some paper left.Â The odd fragment of waffle notwithstanding, the authors go on to make a serious attempt to define the way technological readiness contributes to an economyâ€™s competitiveness. They stress the importance of ICT, referring to Manuel Trajtenbergâ€™s concept of a â€˜general purpose technologyâ€™ (like the steam engine) which comes to organize economic activity around itself.