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Ranked: The World’s Most Competitive Countries (2019-2023)

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most competitive countries for businesses

Ranking the Most Competitive Countries Around the World

Just as a well-made ship needs fair weather for a smooth voyage, businesses need a supportive ecosystem to start and stay successful.

Rankings for the most competitive countries attempt to quantify this support directly, seeing which economies have the best frameworks for business to thrive. Examining how the rankings change over time can also tell us a lot about how countries are progressing relative to others.

In the above graphic, Julie Peasley uses the World Competitiveness Ranking report by the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) to chart the top 20 most competitive countries between 2019 and 2023.

How is Business Competitiveness Measured?

IMD examines countries on the basis of four metrics across multiple sub-factors:

  • Economic performance:
    Domestic economy, international trade, international investment, employment, prices
  • Government efficiency:
    Public finance, tax policy, institutional framework, business legislation, societal framework
  • Business efficiency:
    Productivity & efficiency, labor market, finance, management practices, attitudes & values
  • Infrastructure:
    Basic infrastructure, technological infrastructure, scientific infrastructure, health & environment, education

These metrics are scored on a mix of hard statistics, surveys from partner institutes, and supplementary data.

Which Countries are the Best and Worst for Business?

Denmark holds on to the top spot as the most business-friendly country in 2023, after it ranked number one for the first time in 2022. The Scandinavian country has been a perennial top 10 performer since 2018 but really began its ascent to the summit in the last four years.

The country excels in the categories of business efficiency, government efficiency, and infrastructure metrics, despite comparatively average economic performance next to some of its geographic peers.

Rank (2023)Country2019202020212022
1🇩🇰 Denmark8231
2🇮🇪 Ireland7121311
3🇨🇭 Switzerland4312
4🇸🇬 Singapore1153
5🇳🇱 Netherlands6446
6🇹🇼 Taiwan161187
7🇭🇰 Hong Kong2575
8🇸🇪 Sweden9624
9🇺🇸 U.S.3101010
10🇦🇪 UAE59912
11🇫🇮 Finland1513118
12🇶🇦 Qatar10141718
13🇧🇪 Belgium27252421
14🇳🇴 Norway11769
15🇨🇦 Canada1381414
16🇮🇸 Iceland20212116
17🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia26243224
18🇨🇿 Czech Republic33333426
19🇦🇺 Australia18182219
20🇱🇺 Luxembourg12151213
21🇨🇳 China14201617
22🇩🇪 Germany17171515
23🇮🇱 Israel24262725
24🇦🇹 Austria19161920
25🇧🇭 BahrainN/AN/AN/A30
26🇪🇪 Estonia35282622
27🇲🇾 Malaysia22272532
28🇰🇷 South Korea28232327
29🇬🇧 UK23191823
30🇹🇭 Thailand25292833
31🇳🇿 New Zealand21222031
32🇱🇹 Lithuania29313029
33🇫🇷 France31322928
34🇮🇩 Indonesia32403744
35🇯🇵 Japan30343134
36🇪🇸 Spain36363936
37🇰🇿 Kazakhstan34423543
38🇰🇼 KuwaitN/AN/AN/AN/A
39🇵🇹 Portugal39373642
40🇮🇳 India43434337
41🇮🇹 Italy44444141
42🇸🇮 Slovenia37354038
43🇵🇱 Poland38394750
44🇨🇱 Chile42384445
45🇨🇾 Cyprus41303340
46🇭🇺 Hungary47474239
47🇹🇷 Türkiye51465152
48🇷🇴 Romania49514851
49🇬🇷 Greece58494647
50🇭🇷 Croatia60605946
51🇱🇻 Latvia40413835
52🇵🇭 Philippines46455248
53🇸🇰 Slovak Republic53575049
54🇯🇴 Jordan57584956
55🇵🇪 Peru55525854
56🇲🇽 Mexico50535555
57🇧🇬 Bulgaria48485353
58🇨🇴 Colombia52545657
59🇧🇼 BotswanaN/AN/A6158
60🇧🇷 Brazil59565759
61🇿🇦 South Africa56596260
62🇲🇳 Mongolia62616061
63🇦🇷 Argentina61626362
64🇻🇪 Venezuela63636463

Close behind in second place is Ireland, jumping five spots since 2019. The country’s strong economic performance helped it break into the upper echelon after bouncing around the top-15 rankings in the last few years.

Ranked third is Switzerland which has been in the top five since 2018, and reached first place in 2021. While the country scores well on several key indicators, it loses points on subfactors like the lack of business development and IPO offerings.

Singapore, which also was previously ranked as the most competitive country in 2019 and 2020, secured fourth place in 2023. In contrast to Denmark and Switzerland, the Asian financial heavyweight scores well on economic performance but loses ground on government efficiency.

At the bottom of the list, Venezuela, Argentina, and Mongolia face significant challenges in business competitiveness in 2023. These countries suffer from a trifecta of poor economic performance, low business and government efficiency, and substandard infrastructure, hindering business growth and development. Macro developments also play a key factor in their fortunes. For example, Mongolia has suffered in the aftermath of sanctions on Russia, a key trade partner.

Changing Rankings for the Most Competitive Countries

Though some countries have placed consistently in the rankings of the most competitive countries, there are also countries that have seen more noteworthy fluctuations.

China and Germany were both in the top 20 rankings pretty consistently until 2022, but both fell just short of that benchmark in the 2023 rankings.

And the U.S. is still in the top 10 but has dropped six spots compared to other economies in the last five years. The country’s economic might is unimpeachable, but rankings slipped in the business landscape and government efficiency metrics.

Here are the five-year changes in rankings for all countries scored in the IMD report, sorted from biggest increase to largest decrease:

CountryChange (2019-2023)Rank (2023)
🇨🇿 Czech Republic+1518
🇧🇪 Belgium+1413
🇹🇼 Taiwan+106
🇭🇷 Croatia+1050
🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia+917
🇪🇪 Estonia+926
🇬🇷 Greece+949
🇩🇰 Denmark+71
🇮🇪 Ireland+52
🇫🇮 Finland+411
🇮🇸 Iceland+416
🇹🇷 Türkiye447
🇮🇳 India340
🇮🇹 Italy341
🇯🇴 Jordan354
🇨🇭 Switzerland+13
🇳🇱 Netherlands+15
🇸🇪 Sweden+18
🇮🇱 Israel+123
🇭🇺 Hungary+146
🇷🇴 Romania+148
🇰🇷 South Korea028
🇪🇸 Spain036
🇵🇹 Portugal039
🇸🇰 Slovak Republic053
🇵🇪 Peru055
🇲🇳 Mongolia062
🇦🇺 Australia-119
🇧🇷 Brazil-160
🇻🇪 Venezuela-164
🇶🇦 Qatar-212
🇨🇦 Canada-215
🇫🇷 France-233
🇮🇩 Indonesia-234
🇨🇱 Chile-244
🇦🇷 Argentina-263
🇸🇬 Singapore-34
🇳🇴 Norway-314
🇱🇹 Lithuania-332
🇰🇿 Kazakhstan-337
🇨🇾 Cyprus-445
🇭🇰 Hong Kong-57
🇦🇪 UAE-510
🇩🇪 Germany-522
🇦🇹 Austria-524
🇲🇾 Malaysia-527
🇹🇭 Thailand-530
🇯🇵 Japan-535
🇸🇮 Slovenia-542
🇵🇱 Poland-543
🇿🇦 South Africa-561
🇺🇸 U.S.-69
🇬🇧 UK-629
🇵🇭 Philippines-652
🇲🇽 Mexico-656
🇨🇴 Colombia-658
🇨🇳 China-721
🇱🇺 Luxembourg-820
🇧🇬 Bulgaria-957
🇳🇿 New Zealand-1031
🇱🇻 Latvia-1151
🇧🇭 BahrainN/A25
🇰🇼 KuwaitN/A38
🇧🇼 BotswanaN/A59

The Czech Republic and Belgium have made huge strides in improving their business environments since 2019, moving up 15 and 14 spots in the rankings over the last half a decade, respectively.

Saudi Arabia has also been making steady gains thanks to a series of pro-business reforms in recent years. Together with the Czech Republic, 2023 marked the first year both countries cracked the top 20 list for the most competitive countries.

On the other hand, Latvia and New Zealand have slipped the most in competitiveness, dropping 11 and 10 spots respectively. Latvia and its Baltic neighbors are dealing with a tough geopolitical environment and risk of a recession with instability in the region, while New Zealand was noted as dealing with both a brain drain and a lack of resiliency to climate change.

An Examination of Business Competitiveness

Business competitiveness is one of many measurements for country performance, including gross domestic product (GDP), income, livability, and even happiness rankings.

And as with other measurements, it is important to consider the nuances and disparities among countries when applying a one-size-fits-all ranking system.

For instance, the most populous countries rank comparatively poorer. The U.S. ranks #2 when only considering countries with a population greater than 20 million, and China is the most competitive country with a GDP per capita of less than $20,000.

And while criticisms about the subjectivity of these rankings may be valid, looking at these kinds of breakdowns can bring unique insights to broad sociological questions, and be used as a tool to help policymakers.

Where Does This Data Come From?

Source: The International Institute for Management Development’s World Competitiveness Booklet 2023.

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This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.

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U.S. Debt Interest Payments Reach $1 Trillion

U.S. debt interest payments have surged past the $1 trillion dollar mark, amid high interest rates and an ever-expanding debt burden.

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This line chart shows U.S. debt interest payments over modern history.

U.S. Debt Interest Payments Reach $1 Trillion

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

The cost of paying for America’s national debt crossed the $1 trillion dollar mark in 2023, driven by high interest rates and a record $34 trillion mountain of debt.

Over the last decade, U.S. debt interest payments have more than doubled amid vast government spending during the pandemic crisis. As debt payments continue to soar, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported that debt servicing costs surpassed defense spending for the first time ever this year.

This graphic shows the sharp rise in U.S. debt payments, based on data from the Federal Reserve.

A $1 Trillion Interest Bill, and Growing

Below, we show how U.S. debt interest payments have risen at a faster pace than at another time in modern history:

DateInterest PaymentsU.S. National Debt
2023$1.0T$34.0T
2022$830B$31.4T
2021$612B$29.6T
2020$518B$27.7T
2019$564B$23.2T
2018$571B$22.0T
2017$493B$20.5T
2016$460B$20.0T
2015$435B$18.9T
2014$442B$18.1T
2013$425B$17.2T
2012$417B$16.4T
2011$433B$15.2T
2010$400B$14.0T
2009$354B$12.3T
2008$380B$10.7T
2007$414B$9.2T
2006$387B$8.7T
2005$355B$8.2T
2004$318B$7.6T
2003$294B$7.0T
2002$298B$6.4T
2001$318B$5.9T
2000$353B$5.7T
1999$353B$5.8T
1998$360B$5.6T
1997$368B$5.5T
1996$362B$5.3T
1995$357B$5.0T
1994$334B$4.8T
1993$311B$4.5T
1992$306B$4.2T
1991$308B$3.8T
1990$298B$3.4T
1989$275B$3.0T
1988$254B$2.7T
1987$240B$2.4T
1986$225B$2.2T
1985$219B$1.9T
1984$205B$1.7T
1983$176B$1.4T
1982$157B$1.2T
1981$142B$1.0T
1980$113B$930.2B
1979$96B$845.1B
1978$84B$789.2B
1977$69B$718.9B
1976$61B$653.5B
1975$55B$576.6B
1974$50B$492.7B
1973$45B$469.1B
1972$39B$448.5B
1971$36B$424.1B
1970$35B$389.2B
1969$30B$368.2B
1968$25B$358.0B
1967$23B$344.7B
1966$21B$329.3B

Interest payments represent seasonally adjusted annual rate at the end of Q4.

At current rates, the U.S. national debt is growing by a remarkable $1 trillion about every 100 days, equal to roughly $3.6 trillion per year.

As the national debt has ballooned, debt payments even exceeded Medicaid outlays in 2023—one of the government’s largest expenditures. On average, the U.S. spent more than $2 billion per day on interest costs last year. Going further, the U.S. government is projected to spend a historic $12.4 trillion on interest payments over the next decade, averaging about $37,100 per American.

Exacerbating matters is that the U.S. is running a steep deficit, which stood at $1.1 trillion for the first six months of fiscal 2024. This has accelerated due to the 43% increase in debt servicing costs along with a $31 billion dollar increase in defense spending from a year earlier. Additionally, a $30 billion increase in funding for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation in light of the regional banking crisis last year was a major contributor to the deficit increase.

Overall, the CBO forecasts that roughly 75% of the federal deficit’s increase will be due to interest costs by 2034.

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