Brain Food: 1st to 6th - The US's global competitiveness ranking

STAT OF THE MONTH - AMERICA ON THE SLIDE

It looks as though America's cavalier attitude to cash is catching up with it. Thanks to its spiralling budget deficit, the US economy is no longer the world's most competitive, according to the World Economic Forum. It may still be the land of opportunity, but the prize for competitiveness has passed, bizarrely, to Switzerland. The Forum's rankings pit nation against nation on everything from national institutions and infrastructure to market efficiency. The US scores highly on technology and business environment, but its dramatic slide shows you can't keep living lavishly in the red without raising a few eyebrows among your peers. At $900 billion, America's current-account deficit is seven times larger than 10 years ago. Now more severe than it has ever been, it looks increasingly unsustainable.

The Forum highlights fears in the international business community that America's fiscal tack is misguided - especially against a backdrop of war, rising oil prices and nuclear concerns. The national body-mass index indicates a spell of belt-tightening for the US, but will it happen?

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