The Arab World Competitiveness Report 2018, launched Tuesday in Dubai, ranked the UAE as the 17th most competitive country in the world.
Saudi Arabia, ranked 30th most competitive, was another Mena nation to crack the global top 30.
The rankings are based on 12 factors, from education to infrastructure, that are critical for productivity and economic growth.
Increased diversification makes the UAE’s economy most resilient and able to weather the double shock of lower oil and gas prices and reduced global trade, according to report, and better suited to maintain a stable macroeconomic environment.
“The resilience of its fiscal policy will be further strengthened in the future because the UAE was … among the early adopters of the new VAT,” the report states.
In order to further increase its competitiveness, the UAE will have to speed up progress in spreading the latest digital technologies (36th) and upgrading education (36th).
Education and innovation are two areas where the Mena countries most deviate from their counterparts in more developed nations.
Despite this, the UAE benefits from strong institutions, good infrastructure, and a good level of health care and primary education, according to the report.
Throughout the region, however, there are strong macroeconomic headwinds facing the 20 Mena countries.
Despite being non-homogenous, “what is very common across the countries in the Arab world is the issue of the dominance of the public sector …[they] have been the provider of all the jobs, 60 to 80 per cent,” said Mouayed Makhlouf, regional director for the IFC, a sister organisation of the World Bank.
“That is a serious issue.”
With a changing economic landscape, the region will need to generate 58 million jobs by the year 2040 to maintain unemployment rates, and even more to lower them, according to the report.
The report recommends that countries diversify their economies and move away from a model of government-led growth and lessen reliance on natural resources exports.