Going for Growth

Really? It’s now easier to do business in Greece

You might head there for a beach holiday or to see the Acropolis, but have you considered doing business in Greece?

In spite of the knife-edge negotiations to stop the country from defaulting on its debt, Greece has jumped in the IMD (International Institute for Management Development) annual world competitiveness ranking, which rates the ease of conducting business in various countries. The top-ranking Swiss business school judged countries' competitiveness by a combination of their economic performance, government efficiency, infrastructure and business efficiency.

The Parthenon temple in Athens.
Alkis Konstantinidis | Reuters

While the U.S. clung on to its top spot in the ranking for 2015, with Hong Kong and Singapore just behind, Greece bounced from 57th place to 50th.

That may seem pretty low—the IMD only rated 61 countries in total—but it's surprising for a country that is locked in dispute with international bailout supervisors and hampered by a hard-left government that is threatening to default on its debts.

The IMD highlighted improvements to Greek investment flows abroad and a recent uptick in real gross domestic product (GDP), with the economy expanding by 0.8 percent in 2014 after six years of declines.

The IMD also rated Greece highly for the availability of skilled labor, placing it in an impressive second place out of all 61 countries on this measure. Greece also scored second place for its number of qualified engineers, pupil-teacher ratio in primary schools and level of secondary school enrollment.

So why is Greece at risk of leaving the euro zone, rather than leading it? Once factor is that one-quarter of its working population is out of work, placing it bottom of the IMD's rankings for unemployment. It is also bottom of the pile for tax evasion, pension funding and sovereign credit rating, with Greece awarded a speculative CCC+ grade by Standard & Poor's.

Job seekers wait in a line to enter an employment center before opening in Athens, Greece, Sept. 10, 2014.
Kostas Tsironis | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Still if it is the pace of recent improvements that counts, Greece beat its austerity bête noire Germany. That country fell to 10th place from sixth in the IMD ranking, reflecting "a fall in business efficiency."

Other gainers included the euro zone's Luxembourg, which jumped into sixth place this year from 11th.

Looking eastward, both Russian and Ukraine fell in the rankings, reflecting the "negative impact that armed conflict and the accompanying higher market volatility have on competitiveness in an increasingly interconnected international economy," according to the IMD.

Europe's top 10 countries for competitiveness—IMD:

  1. Switzerland
  2. Luxembourg
  3. Norway
  4. Denmark
  5. Sweden
  6. Germany
  7. Netherlands
  8. Ireland
  9. U.K.
  10. Finland

The world's top 10 countries for competitiveness—IMD:

  1. U.S.
  2. Hong Kong (China)
  3. Singapore
  4. Switzerland
  5. Canada
  6. Luxembourg
  7. Norway
  8. Denmark
  9. Sweden
  10. Germany