Sunday, August 21, 2011

How Competitive is Your Favorite Country?

The World Economic Forum, (WEF) is an independent, international organization, that is, according to committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas. (  They are possibly best known for hosting the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland.  But they do more including preparing a range of research reports.  One of them is the Global Competitiveness Index, a fascinating look at countries around the world.

The 2010-2011 the report ranked the competitiveness of 139 countries with Switzerland holding the number one spot, and Chad coming in at 139.( )
In between  those two we note the US at #4, down a spot from last year, and the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), five of the most talked about countries today, ranked as #58, 63, 51, 27 and 54. 

On the surface this may seem surprising unless one digs into the report and considers WEF definition of competitiveness “the set of institutions, policies and factors that determine the level of productivity of a country”.   The ranks don't consider just one measure but represents a complex analysis of each country.

To develop the rankings countries are evaluated using the WEF’s 12 Pillars of Competitiveness which are Institutions, Infrastructure, Macroeconomic environment, Health and primary education, Higher education and training, Good market efficiency, Labor market efficiency, Technological readiness, Market size, Business sophistication and Innovation.  Twelve areas to consider as you do your own analysis of a country.  The report is filled with interesting observations along with lots of data.   It considers not just these 12 categories but their importance based on the developmental stage of each country.   Take some time and you may gain a fresh understanding of your favorite country.  What is its number and what does that tell you?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Numbers, Numbers, Numbers

No matter how much we prepare for our travels we often find It’s the small differences that can surprise us.  For me, my most recent visit to Paris started with the simple project of buying a bouquet of flowers as a hostess gift.  I stopped at a shop where I'd bought flowers before, selected a bouquet, paid, walked out and then noticed there were only five roses , not six, the half dozen I expected. I checked other bouquets in the display – all five, not a set of six to be seen.  And then I remembered, it’s Paris, flowers are given in odd numbers.  Of course a set of five.  Flowers in sets of odd numbers are normal, appropriate, expected. 

This little insight led me to think about numbers in general as part of a travel experience.  What number is appropriate when giving something?  What are the meanings of numbers?  Is seven lucky?  Is four not?  But that's not all we need to think about.

Let's not forget when we’re learning the basic translations of our polite vocabulary (please, thank you, can you help me?) that we should also pay attention to the numbers.  One to ten as a base.  Numbers as hours of the day – all 24 of them.   Useful to help understand what time a meeting will begin or what that bouquet of flowers will cost. 

To find out how to translate and pronounce the numbers there are all the language sources you'd usually use:  Google Translate, download apps and podcasts through iTunes (, find books, hand held translators, DVDs through Amazon ( or do a language specific web search.  Choices for everyone.