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US and UK defy Crisis to top World Economic Forum’s Inaugural Financial Development Index


New York, 9 September 2008 – The World Economic Forum today launched the world’s first Financial Development Index, a rigorous, comprehensive analysis of financial systems and capital markets in 52 countries that analyses key drivers of financial system development and economic growth in developing and developed countries.

The United States narrowly edged the United Kingdom to take the top position in the Financial Development Index. The US and the United Kingdom have close rankings, outstripping the remaining countries in the top 10 Germany, Japan, Canada, France, Switzerland, Hong Kong SAR, Netherlands and Singapore.

The Financial Development Report 2008, which promotes the full potential of financial systems to drive economic growth in developing countries, provides a ranking of 52 of the world’s leading financial systems through which countries can benchmark their performance and evaluate priorities for reform.

The rankings are based on over 120 variables spanning institutional and business environments, financial stability, and size and depth of capital markets, among other factors, in assessing the complex financial systems of the 52 countries studied.

An important and unique measure captured by the Index includes the degree to which businesses feel they can easily access capital.

The report draws on data taken from a variety of publicly available sources as well as the World Economic Forum’s Executive Opinion Survey, a comprehensive annual survey conducted by the World Economic Forum with its network of Partner Institutes (leading research institutes and business organizations).

- Rankings in full:

The Industry Partnership Programme of the World Economic Forum, under whose auspices this work was undertaken, provides a platform for the world’s leading companies to define and address critical issues. Kevin Steinberg, Chief Operating Officer of the World Economic Forum USA, explains: “We hope this report will draw attention to the pivotal role of financial systems to spur economic development and act as a catalyst for reform and change.”

Some of the findings revealed by the Report follow.

The United States and the United Kingdom came out on top as the Index looks beyond these countries’ current financial turmoil to discern fundamental strengths in their broader financial systems. The breadth of measures captured in the Index validate the collective strength of financial intermediaries in both countries, including banks, investment banks, insurance companies, as well as robust equity, bond and derivatives markets. Areas of potential concern to the sustained pre-eminence of these two financial systems – beyond the current acute issues of financial stability – include such factors as distortionary tax policies in the United States and the high cost of doing business in the United Kingdom.

Some countries, such as Mexico and Peru, perform better with respect to foundational requirements of sound regulation and the low cost of doing business; yet they have not been able to fully transform these strengths into robust financial intermediaries and markets. China and Egypt do not seem to demonstrate an ease of access to capital that is commensurate with the overall depth of financial assets in their countries. By contrast, the United Arab Emirates seems to provide strong access to capital for its businesses despite a relatively lower ranking with respect to its depth of financial assets.

Nouriel Roubini, Professor of Economics and International Business, New York University, and Chairman, Roubini Global Economics Monitor, was the lead academic on the project and provided much of the thought leadership in the design of the Index. He states: “The Index is an invaluable tool in understanding the strengths and weaknesses of different countries’ financial systems and how to improve them to drive economic growth. The Index is intended to serve as a basis for discussion about financial system development and how countries can use financial system reform to drive economic growth, and provide capital and opportunity to those who most need it.”

The Financial Development Report benefited from the guidance and support of its Industry Partners with particular contributions from AIG, Barclays Capital, Lloyds and Standard Chartered Bank. It is the culmination of a year-long partnership between the World Economic Forum and academic scholars, industry practitioners, and other distinguished experts and stakeholders.
The World Economic Forum is an independent international organization committed to improving the state of the world by engaging leaders in partnerships to shape global, regional and industry agendas.

Incorporated as a foundation in 1971, and based in Geneva, Switzerland, the World Economic Forum is impartial and not-for-profit; it is tied to no political, partisan or national interests (


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