Canada’s competitiveness slips

OTTAWA — Canada’s economic competitiveness on the world stage is being pulled down by — among other things — government handling of the innovation file, says an annual report from the World Economic Forum.

OTTAWA — Canada’s economic competitiveness on the world stage is being pulled down by — among other things — government handling of the innovation file, says an annual report from the World Economic Forum.

Canada slipped two notches to 14th place in the forum’s ranking of global economic competitiveness, released Wednesday.

While the survey finds Canada benefits from highly efficient markets and excellent infrastructure, it is “being dragged down by a less favourable assessment of the quality of its research institutions and the government’s role in promoting innovation through procurement practices.”

The report also notes a “slight” downward trend in Canada’s performance in higher education, “driven by lower university enrolment rates and a decline in the extent to which staff is being trained at the workplace.”

The forum ranks a country’s competitiveness according to factors such as the state of its infrastructure and its ability to foster innovation.

The Conference Board of Canada, which assisted the forum in the gathering the information, says the country is not “taking full advantage of our strong economic fundamentals.”

“Too often, Canada fails to commercialize its good ideas into marketable products and services or capture the value from growth,” said board president and CEO Daniel Muzyka.

“More needs to be done — all levels of government, all sizes of business, and all types of educational institutions have an important role to play.”

The board notes that Canada has dropped five places in the global rankings since 2009.

Canada’s banks, however, received top ranking for “soundness” from the World Economic Forum for a fifth consecutive year.

“Canadian banks are well-capitalized, well-managed and well-regulated and have remained prudent lenders, and this has been recognized by the World Economic Forum in the rankings,” said Terry Campbell, president of the Canadian Bankers Association.

“Our banks are a Canadian success story, serving Canadians well and contributing significantly to the growth of the Canadian economy.”

The United States saw its ranking drop two places to seventh this year, even though the world’s largest economy saw its overall competitiveness rise on the back of its status as a global innovation powerhouse.

Still, the forum says it found that some aspects of the U.S.’s political environment continue to raise concern among business leaders, “particularly the low public trust in politicians and a perceived lack of government efficiency.”

The survey comes just a day before President Barack Obama addresses the Democratic National Convention in his bid to defeat Republican candidate Mitt Romney in November’s election.

A little over a year ago, the United States lost its triple A credit rating from Standard & Poor’s after a stand-off between Republicans and Democrats over the raising of the debt ceiling stoked fears of a potential debt default.

Switzerland tops the overall rankings of 144 economies in the Global Competitiveness Report 2012-13 for the fourth consecutive year, followed by Singapore.

The forum said Switzerland’s standing rests notably on its innovation and labour market efficiency, as well as the sophistication of its business sector.

Including Switzerland, six northern European countries make up the Top 10. Others on the leaderboard include Hong Kong and Japan, while central African country Burundi brings up the rear.

Though northern European countries have consolidated their positions since the financial crisis of 2008, the survey found that those in southern Europe, such as Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy, continue to suffer from a host of economic problems, including poor access to financing and rigid labour markets.

Greece is faring worst of Europe’s problem economies and is ranked at 96th.

— With files from The Associated Press

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