Canada best for business: Forbes

By Theresa Tedesco, Financial Post

Canada ranks as the top country among 134 major developed nations for business, according to the annual Best Countries for Business survey by influential business magazine Forbes.

The move from fourth in 2010 to top billing is based on a ranking of 11 different factors – including property rights, taxes, freedom of trade, money, corruption, innovation, investor protection and market performance. According to the survey, Canada is the only country to score in the top 20 consistently in 10 of those metrics.

“As an affluent, high-tech industrial society in the trillion-dollar class, Canada resembles the US in its market-oriented economic system, pattern of production and affluent living standards,” the report says.

Canada is lauded for avoiding the financial meltdown that has seen banks teetering perilously in the U.S. and Europe since 2008, for tax reform, mostly with the introduction of the Harmonized Sales Tax in Ontario and British Columbia, and for its ability to maintain a lower unemployment rate than its trading partners. In fact, in terms of overall tax burden, Canada ranked ninth in 2011, up from 23rd in 2010.

“During the run-up to every U.S. presidential election, countless Americans threaten to move to Canada if their preferred candidate does not emerge victorious,” declared Forbes. “Of course, few follow through with a move north. Maybe it is time to reconsider.”

While the U.S. is “paralyzed by fears of a double-dip recession and Europe struggles with sovereign debt issues,” Canada’s economy held its own, the report gushes. “Canada enjoys a substantial trade surplus with the US, which absorbs about three-fourths of Canadian exports each year.”

The unemployment rate of 7.3% in Canada compares favourably with the U.S. rate of over 9% and the eurozone unemployment rate of 10%.

Even economic expansion, projected at 2.4% but down from last year’s 3.1%, is heralded.

While many Canadians have a love-hate relationship with their banks, the folks at Forbes are unequivocal in their adoration. “Canada’s major banks, however, emerged from the financial crisis of 2008-09 among the strongest in the world, owing to the financial sector’s tradition of conservative lending practices and strong capitalization.”

The other countries rounding out the top 10 are New Zealand, Hong Kong, Ireland, Denmark, Singapore, Norway, the United Kingdom, and the U.S, at 10th spot, down from ninth in 2010. The culprit in 2011: the U.S. surpassed Japan as having the highest corporate tax rate among major developed countries.

Three African countries – Burundi, Zimbabwe and Chad – bring up the rear among the 134 nations ranked, all faring poorly mostly because of corruption and red tape.

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