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Oct 15

Productivity Commission (Aus) shows the way

Peter Harris, chairman of Australia’s Productivity Commission (PC), was interviewed on the airwaves today

The purpose of the APC is to deal with problems that the Government finds too hard – too difficult to solve – based on a fact-based analysis

And it’s most important that their views are accepted as being independent

The process they follow with any problem they’re asked to address is:

  1. Start with gathering and analysing underlying facts/ data/ numbers

  2. Consider the impact on different groups of individuals

  3. Build a picture of the impact on the economy

  4. Ask experts in the field for their views, recognising they may be biased by self-interest

  5. Try to cover all sides of the arguments

  6. End up with a PC view

  7. Publicise their findings so many others can have their say

Usually, they’re optimistic that the Government will react well to their findings because all politics are kept out of the process

However, Harris admitted their work is not always implemented as they would like – but, even then, they get satisfaction from knowing they’ve fed nationally important debates

All positive stuff from a most impressive chairman

Note also that the USA also has an equivalent organisation – the APQC, American Productivity & Quality Center, which is independent, well-supported and focuses on helping all sectors of their economy to improve productivity and quality levels

Indeed, most developed nations have some form of NPO – National Productivity Organisation – albeit their importance and impact vary widely

The glaring exception, however, is the UK – a UKPC once existed, supported by the government, but was disbanded many years ago so now the UK has nothing which is well known, supported and used

Yet the current UK government keeps banging on about the importance of productivity to the nation’s standard of living and well-being – they lob a few billion pounds into piecemeal projects which might help somehow but leave most of the improvements said to be needed to managers on the front line

Hence, in the UK, there’s a huge productivity gap – a vacuum of support and information – between the macro-level productivity exhortations and statistics which government ministers, a variety of self-appointed economic experts and the ONS spew out on a regular basis and the micro-level people whom they rely on to do something about it

One had hoped the recent government supported PLG – Productivity Leadership Group – might help fill this gap but, after an initial flurry of publicity and excitement, what noticeable improvements have been made?

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