For the fourth consecutive year, Switzerland has been ranked as the world's most competitive economy in the World Economic Forum's (WEF) Global Competitiveness Report. It was followed by Singapore in second place and Finland in third. Switzerland's highly professional level of innovation, efficient labour market and sophisticated business sector were listed by the WEF as it core strengths. The quality of its research institutions and the high level of collaboration between its academic and business sectors were also praised by the report.

Singapore, which took second place for the second consecutive year, was praised for its rapid improvements. It was ranked highest in the world in terms of its goods and labour efficiency, while it was ranked in the top three in four other indicators. One of the few negatives highlighted by the report was the city-state's level of government debt, which currently stands at more than 100% of its GDP.

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Overtaking neighbouring Sweden, and moving up from fourth place in the 2011-12 report, Finland finished third and recorded its third consecutive year of improvement, brought about by its institutional innovation and overall growth. Finland was ranked first in the world in terms of its healthcare and primary education, while it ranked in the top three for its public and private institutions.

Since being named the most competitive economy in the 2008-09 report, the US has slipped down the ranking, this year placing in seventh. This drop is largely owing to a decline in the country's macroeconomic stability. The BRIC economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China all appeared in the top half of the ranking, placing 48th, 67th, 59th and 29th, respectively.

At the other end of the scale, the least competitive countries generally performed poorly across all indicators. In addition to innovation and efficiency, low scoring countries tended to rank lowest in terms of their institutions, infrastructure, health and primary education.

In Burundi, the country ranked by WEF as the least competitive in the world, the most inhibiting factors to doing business are the lack of available finance and the high level of corruption. The country also has the seventh highest infant mortality rate in the world. The country with the highest infant mortality rate, Sierra Leone, was ranked just one place above Burundi, with Haiti placing third from bottom.

WEF's ranking takes into account 144 countries by examining 113 indicators and a poll of 15,000 executives who opine on their country of business. Each country is given a Global Competitiveness Index score, which reflects the level of productivity in a country, based on various micro and macro pillars that quantify the extent to which a country is competitive.