Malta has slipped two places on a global competitiveness index developed by the World Economic Forum to assess how a country’s institutions and policies are affecting economic prosperity.

The 2019 Global Competitiveness Index ranks Malta as 38th in the world, down from 36th one year ago. The country’s overall score also declined slightly by 0.2 points and now lies at 68.5, between Poland and Lithuania.

Singapore, the USA and Hong Kong topped the 2019 list, with Chad, Yemen and the Democratic Republic of Congo in the bottom three places.

The Netherlands, which placed 4th, was the top-ranking EU member state.

The index is made up of more than 100 variables organised into 12 different pillars. Two-thirds of the variables come from an opinion survey of business leaders in each country. The remaining one-third come from publicly available sources.

141 economies covering 99 per cent of the world’s GDP are included in the 2019 edition.

Report writers surveyed 65 different business leaders in Malta when compiling the index. Last year, 48 business leaders were surveyed.

Malta's performance

The report’s section on Malta suggests the past 12 months have seen the country slip in several key sectors.

Its ranking of 38th worldwide is still Malta’s second-best ranking this decade, however. Malta’s lowest score on the index was in 2011, when it ranked 51st worldwide.

While the country improved its score in metrics such as the quality of its road infrastructure, number of broadband connections, average years of schooling or workforce diversity, it saw declines in the majority of areas.

Overall, the index suggests that Malta has managed to improve its infrastructure, business dynamism and market size but regressed in the soundness of its institutions, skills, market structure and financial systems over the past 12 months.

Malta ranks first worldwide in terms of macroeconomic stability, 25th for ICT adoption and 26th on health, but a lowly 73rd when calculating business dynamism, 46th for research and development and 41st in terms of its institutions.

Chamber of Commerce calls for action

In a reaction, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry urged the government to  prioritise Malta’s competitiveness.

"The Chamber has been consistently vociferous about the latest shortcomings exposed by the World Economic Forum namely the soundness of institutions, skills, market structure and financial systems, in its cause to champion competitiveness," it said in a statement.

"Malta cannot afford to erode its inherent competitive advantage ingredients further and delay addressing of these fundamental aspects of competitiveness," it added.

It said the government should use the Budget to ensure that key institutions are adequately equipped, and headed by the right professional people to guide the country towards better competitiveness ranking.