Make UK world's most competitive economy by 2030, CBI urges Government

The CBI wants the Government to slash the productivity gap between the worst and best performing regions of the country by 15 percentage points by 2030

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The Independent Online

One of Britain’s most powerful business lobby groups is urging the Government to ramp up efforts towards making the UK economy the world’s most competitive by 2030, just as Westminster begins the arduous process of disentangling from the European Union.

The Confederation of British Industry in a report published Tuesday is calling on the Government to present an industrial strategy which is designed to improve living standards and slash the productivity gap between the worst and best performing regions of the country by 15 percentage points by 2030, at a time of immense economic uncertainty.

As part of the strategy the Government would commit to ambitious new targets around income levels, employment rates, income distribution and how economic activity is dispersed across the country, the CBI said.

“The UK is at the foothills of extraordinary change as we look to redefine our role in the world and adapt to rapid technological advances in the workplace,” said Carolyn Fairbairn, the director general of the CBI.

She said that the UK must build on its “leading knowledge base” and “drive a renaissance” in manufacturing, creating “a wave of entrepreneurship” by making Britain the easiest place to establish and grow a business.

“By doing this we can raise productivity and improve lives in every community up and down the country,” she said.

Specifically, the confederation – which represents around 190,000 businesses – is demanding that the Government places a greater emphasis on developing skills, delivering infrastructure projects for both small and large businesses and establishing an affordable plan to cut emissions and maintain a stable tax framework.

In order to achieve this, the CBI says that it is paramount that the Government prioritises innovation.

 “Our competitive advantage depends on our ability to develop and commercialise new ideas as well as the ability of businesses to adopt technology and become more productive,” the organisation writes.

The focus, it says, must be long-term, and progress must be measurable and “independently monitored to help ensure that it survives changes of Government”.

In order to achieve the goals, the CBI is also advocating the appointment of an independent commissioner “to ensure all regions of the UK have appropriate levels of devolution to deliver the industrial strategy”.

And it wants the Government to establish an independent monitoring body, similar to the Office for Budget Responsibility. That organisations role would be to “measure progress against specific performance targets and provide independent and impartial advice on where Government should concentrate its efforts”.

The CBI has been one of the most vocal business lobby groups on the subject of Brexit and, speaking in Leicester last month, Ms Fairbairn warned the Government against "flash-in-the-pan industrial strategies".

Prime Minister Theresa May in January published a green paper on industrial strategy which the CBI labelled as “a good starting point”, but Ms Fairbairn has also criticised it as lacking “clear actions and milestones”.

In February, the CBI warned in a letter to Chancellor Philip Hammond  that although the UK economy has largely been resilient since last June’s EU referendum, growth is likely to slow this year and business investment will stall. 

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