Outlook: Are we really that competitive?
Friday 05 June 1998
However, provided you accept the World Economic Forum's annual Global Competitiveness Report, the latest edition of which was published yesterday, for what it is, then its findings are a not unuseful addition to the legion of competing international economic assessments that struggle for attention each year. The WEF report doesn't pretend to be a conventional assessment of what is happening in economies around the world. Instead it attempts to assess their potential for growth and prosperity. Rather pleasingly, the UK has in recent years soared up the league table, rising from seventh place to fourth in the last year alone.
That puts us way ahead of many conventionally strong economies - notably Japan and Germany. Instead, we are up there with the turbo-charged US economy and, er, rather less flatteringly, with Hong Kong and Singapore. The factors that make us so are largely down to the labour and capital market reforms of the Thatcherite years. Countries like Germany and France score highly on infrastructure, technology and management, but they score poorly on labour flexibility and government policy. The more open and free market orientated an economy, the more likely it is to gain a high ranking in the WEF survey.
Rather less weight is given to the great German economic attributes - high levels of productivity and manufacturing capability - than perhaps ought to be. The WEF survey, for instance, is a total contrast to the one commissioned by the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, which showed British levels of productivity seriously trailing those of Germany and France, not just in manufacturing, but in the service sectors too. Furthermore, if Britain is truly as competitive as the WEF rankings make out, then our exchange rate, even at 3 marks to the pound and higher, could hardly be viewed as a gross overvaluation. Few people in British industry would agree with that thesis.
The real importance of the WEF survey, however, is that it probably reflects international business perceptions of what makes for a healthy economy better than any other. The competitiveness rankings incorporate a survey of senior executives from around the world and they almost without exception rate us very highly.
Perceptions are often very different from reality, of course, but don't knock it; as every job hunter knows, it is as important to be thought of as a desirable property as actually to be one. Gordon Brown, who has a tendency to run down the UK economy at every available opportunity, would do well to take a leaf out of his predecessor's book, and trumpet our labour and capital market advantages as much as he can to the international business community. It's worth a fortune in inward investment.
Apple has been hit by complaints about the 1.1GB download
Liam Neeson's Downton dreams
Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage
Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour
Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason
Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama
Matt Smith is set to join cast of the Jane Austen classic - with a twist
- 2 Scottish independence: Five reasons Salmond is secretly hoping for a 'No' vote
- 3 Isis plan to 'behead random member of the public' in Sydney thwarted by Australian police
- 4 Scottish independence: Andy Murray backs Yes campaign in eleventh hour decision
- 5 Have you heard about the film Singapore has banned its people from watching? Well, you have now
Thailand beach murders: Thai PM suggests 'attractive' female tourists cannot expect to be safe wearing bikinis
Scottish independence referendum live: Latest news as Scotland decides Yes or No
Scottish independence: Final opinion polls show undecided voters could swing result either way
Scottish independence: Almost half of No voters have felt 'personally threatened' by the Yes campaign
Isis plan to 'behead random member of the public' in Sydney thwarted by Australian police
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Portuguese academic says British are 'filthy, violent and drunk'
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
iJobs Money & Business
£320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...
£70-90,000: Saxton Leigh: Our client a London Market Insurer are seeking a Pro...
£60,000 - £80,000: Saxton Leigh: Our client is an leading Asset Manager based...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: The SThree group is a world lea...