Lausanne – South Africa has slipped three places in the world competitiveness rankings compiled by the IMD World Competitiveness Centre in Switzerland.
The centre also looks at the winners and losers since its creation.
Professor Stephane Garelli, director of the IMD World Competitiveness Centre, said: "While the euro zone remains stalled, the robust comeback of the US to the top of the competitiveness rankings, and better news from Japan, have revived the austerity debate.
The economies of the Brics countries — South Africa, Brazil, China, India and Russia – have enjoyed mixed fortunes.
China (21) and Russia (42) rose in the rankings, while India (40), Brazil (51) and South Africa fell to 53rd place overall.
Emerging economies in general remain highly dependent on the global economic recovery, which seems to be delayed.
The US has regained the no 1 spot in 2013, thanks to a rebounding financial sector; an abundance of technological innovation and successful companies.
In Europe, the most competitive nations include Switzerland (2), Sweden (4) and Germany (9), whose success relies upon export-oriented manufacturing, diversified economies, strong small and medium enterprises and fiscal discipline.
Like last year, the rest of Europe is heavily constrained by austerity programmes that are delaying recovery and calling into question the timeliness of the measures proposed.
South Africa is one of 19 countries that fell by five rankings or more since 1997. Other countries in this category include the UK, Argentina as well as Brics partner Brazil.
Among the nine countries that rose five ranks or more since 1997 are China, Taiwan, Germany, Korea and Switzerland.
Prof Garelli said generalisations were misleading.
He said Europe’s competitiveness was declining, but countries such as Germany and Norway were “shining successes.”
He pointed out that Latin America was disappointing, but there were great global companies all over that region.
“South Africa, Brazil, Russia, India and China were immensely different in their competitiveness strategies and performance, but the Brics partnership remained lands of opportunities.”
Follow Fin24 on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest.