How much attention do we need to pay to rankings?

 Cheming Yang

We live in a world of rankings. No doubt about that. We heard all about rankings in the entertainment business, like Billboard charts. You will be tempted to follow pop music according to their performance on the variety of charts. Rankings give the ordinary people guidance in many aspects other than music. For instance, we can find all sorts of rankings in the US News and World Report, such as colleges, hospitals, mutual funds, cars, etc.

People might not be satisfied about how the rankings are produced and yet greatly influenced by these numerical judgments. With that being said, here comes the big question. Can we rank countries? It depends on what you intend to rank. According to living standards? Quality of life? Or happiness?

In this issue, we tackle with the problem of national competitiveness again. The Switzerland-based International Institute for Management Development released the World Competitiveness Yearbook 2011 in May. Taiwan is quite happy with its new found place at 6th globally. This is an elevation from 8th in 2010. Although the ruling party is quite content with this progress, the opposing party also enjoys the newly found weakness of the current government.

In the category of government efficiency, Taiwan dropped four spots to 10th in comparison with last year. Does it matter whether you are the 6th or 10th? It does to the opposing party in that it leads to the conclusion that the current government is going nowhere.

Who are the audience of this competitiveness report? The political parties of every country? Because the politicians can use the rankings to either uphold their standings or crush their adversaries. Or as we hope these reports will be read by investors to guide where they are going to put in their money. We certainly hope this report can be taken seriously by investors. Then it is worth all the fuss stirred up by its publication. Otherwise, it is really not worth the trouble to rank.


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