Israel fell three spots to number 17 in the World Economic Forum's annual Global Competitiveness Report, which provides a comprehensive picture of the competitiveness landscape in countries around the world at all stages of development. The US took the number one spot on the survey, while Chad came in at the bottom of the 131-country study. "In an uncertain global financial environment it is more important than ever for countries to put into place the fundamentals underpinning economic growth and development," said Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum. "The WEF has for many years played a facilitating role in this process by providing detailed assessments of the productive potential of nations worldwide and it offers policy-makers and business leaders an important tool in the formulation of improved economic policies and institutional reforms." The report, release Wednesday, is based on 12 pillars of competitiveness, including institutions, infrastructure, health and primary education, labor market efficiency and financial market sophistication. The rankings were calculated from both publicly available data and the Executive Opinion Survey, a comprehensive annual survey conducted by the WEF together with its network of leading research institutes and business organizations in the countries covered by the report. The report also includes comprehensive listings of the main strengths and weaknesses of countries, making it possible to identify key priorities for policy reform. According to the report, Israel ranks 42nd in tax levels, 31st in governmental bureaucracy, 37th in the quality and efficiency of its ports, 30th in road infrastructure quality, 36th in railroad infrastructure quality, 31st in the quality of education and 67th in the length of time it takes to open a business. All of these numbers fell from 2006. The Manufacturers Association of Israel blamed the decline on the Israeli government, saying it was not fulfilling its obligation to make Israel more competitive against the other countries in the world market. "We gathered from the WEF's report that in categories such as innovation, technology, capital investments and private R&D projects, Israel's ranking went up, but when it came to matters under governmental jurisdiction, such as company tax, government bureaucracy and the quality of public services, the country's ranking fell," the Association said. On the other hand, the Association noted that Israel ranked 5th in the availability of venture capital funds, 4th in mechanized technology, 4th in innovation, 5th in the number of patents registered, 4th in the ratio of personal computers to citizens and 7th in the amount of money companies invested in R&D - activities that fall outside the reach of the government. "Much more has to be done in the economy to raise the standards and increase our competitive standing," Dr. Roby Nathanson, the director of the Macro-Center for Political Economics in Tel Aviv, told The Jerusalem Post, though he noted that the drop in rankings was small enough to be attributed to a statistical error. "Over the last three years, the government has continued to put forward the same economic policy, but if the government is concerned about increasing our world standing, then they must start really working to improve the social conditions here." Other Middle Eastern countries that placed in the upper-half of the rankings included Kuwait, Qatar, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Following the US on the list and rounding out the top-five are Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden.