New Zealand's global competitiveness has improved two notches to 23rd in the long-running World Economic Forum survey of official data and 14,059 senior executives around the globe, including 55 New Zealand business leaders.
Released locally by the New Zealand Initiative, a pro-business think tank, the 2012-13 version of the Global Competitiveness Report includes the impact on 2011 government debt and deficit figures of the Christchurch earthquakes.
The relative improvement in competitiveness would have been greater, had New Zealand not dropped to 124th in a survey of 144 countries for ratios of government debt to gross domestic product.
Australia maintained its 2011-12 report ranking of 20th. Top honours went to the European banking and tax haven, Switzerland, while Singapore ranked second for the second year running.
China slipped three places to 29th, but remains the most competitive of the so-called BRIC large, developing economies, of which only Brazil improved its ranking, up five places to 48th. Russia clocked in at 67th, India at 59th, and South Africa 52nd.
The US economy fell for the fourth year to 7th most competitive global economy, followed by Britain at 8th.
Some 30 of the countries measured in the index are assessed to be "more innovation-driven", and were an area of weakness for New Zealand, which ranked 27th.
"Insufficient capacity to innovate" emerged as the third most significant "top problem" identified by New Zealand executives surveyed. Ahead of this were inadequate infrastructure and an inefficient bureaucracy.
On the fundamentals of honest government and transparent processes, New Zealand rose from third place globally to second, and new sustainability measures in the index ranked New Zealand above Australia and improving.
"WEF's main overall finding is that there is no necessary trade-off between being competitive and being sustainable, based on its definitions," the NZ Initiative says in a presentation on the findings of the 500 page report for New Zealand.
"Many countries at the top of the competitiveness rankings are also the best performers in many areas of sustainability."
The index makes no judgments about relative exchange rates as an influence on competitiveness.