The Global Competitiveness Index published by the World Economic Forum has pushed the U.S. down the list to a No. 5 spot. Escalating government debts and declining faith of the public in its administration were cited as the critical factors that contributed to the plunge of the country which was No. 1 in 2008 and No. 4 last year.

Switzerland retained the top spot for the third consecutive year while Singapore is ranked No. 2, followed by Sweden and Finland.

Though the Global Competiveness Report praised America's productivity, highly sophisticated and innovative companies, excellent universities and flexible labor market, the unemployment rate of more than 9 percent and the government deficit were cited as major weaknesses.

In addition to the macroeconomic vulnerabilities that continue to build, some aspects of the U.S. institutional environment continue to raise concern among business leaders, particularly related to low public trust in politicians and concerns about government inefficiency, the Global Competitiveness Report said. On a more positive note, banks and financial institutions are rebounding for the first time since the financial crisis and are assessed as somewhat sounder and more efficient.

Northern and Western European countries dominate the top 10 with Germany sixth, the Netherlands seventh, Denmark eighth and the United Kingdom 10th. Japan remains the second-ranked Asian economy at the ninth place, despite falling three places since last year.

Germany maintains a strong position within the Eurozone, although it goes down one position, while the Netherlands improves by one position in the rankings, France drops three places to 18th and Greece continues its downward trend to 90th.

The People's Republic of China (26th) continues to lead the way among large developing economies, improving by one more place and solidifying its position among the top 30. Among the four other BRICS economies, South Africa (50th) and Brazil (53rd) move upward while India (56th) and Russia (66th) experience small declines. Several Asian economies perform strongly, with Japan and Hong Kong 11th) also in the top 20.

Global Competitiveness Index is based on the economic data and survey conducted among 15,000 business executives.

GCI refers to Global Competitiveness Index and SCI refers to Sustainable Competitiveness Index. The sustainability impact refers to the direction and magnitude of the difference in a country's rank between the GCI and the SCI. This applies to only those countries covered by the SCI.

Higher (by 10 or more positions):  ⇑

Slightly higher (by 3 to 9 positions):  ?

Stable (higher or lower by 2 or fewer positions):  ⇒

Slightly lower (by 3 to 9 positions):  ?

Lower (by 10 or more positions):  ⇓