Category: 20. Nations

Wasted time at school

Government sanctioned waste has a lot to answer for Ministers might bang on about the importance of productivity improvement but their thinking seems restricted to vital investment in infrastructure, R&D and skills training Drive around any town mid-afternoon and see streams of kids walking home from school – and wonder what they do when they …

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Productivity crisis fixed?

The Times has announced a project to be run by the strangely named ‘Be the Business’, a government sponsored initiative aimed at solving the productivity crisis said to be afflicting the nation 100 big companies, including Amazon, Aviva, BAE systems, British Land, Cisco, Google and Rolls Royce, ‘will promise to boost UK productivity by encouraging …

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More recognition of ‘consumer surpli’

A splendid article by Diane Coyle, Professor of Public Policy at the University of Cambridge and contributor to www.project-syndicate.org, has just been posted by the East African Business Week – it’s entitled ‘Rethinking Productivity’ and helps explain much of the current productivity puzzle supposedly afflicting many developed nations, including the UK The word “productivity” typically …

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National inputs also ‘seriously flawed’

Official measures of GDP are said to be ‘seriously flawed’ Now, a report by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) and the Centre for Cities think tank claims ‘millions more people are unemployed than official statistics suggest’ Worse still: “The joblessness rate could be three times higher than thought” because some three million …

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At last, official recognition of the ‘GDP gap’

Yian Mui reports on CNBC that the US Federal Reserve wants to know what the internet is worth to you. He says the answer could help the central bank solve one of the most puzzling paradoxes of the modern economy: The current expansion is the longest in history, yet productivity gains are weak and GDP growth, …

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New UK ‘Productivity Institute’

Productivity of UK businesses is set to be supercharged with £88 million in new government investment announced the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy: £88 million new government investment to help close the productivity gap between UK and major world economies and turbocharge British businesses investment will help power the next generation supercomputers which …

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A National ‘Balanced Scorecard’

All nations – governments and their electorates – need a National Balanced SCorecard (NBSC) of performance measures – a set of cardinals they each can monitor which covers all important factors affecting their standard of living (SoL) and quality of lives (QoL) The  NBSC would be a mix of measures – some absolute, some subjective …

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BoE powerless in UK productivity crisis

Tim Wallace in the Daily Telegraph reports Mark Carney, Governor of the BoE – Bank of England – saying: “Britain’s economy has a new, lower speed limit” Growth can only get to even modest levels before inflation takes off whereupon ‘we must ease our foot off the accelerator’ Ben Broadbent, one of Carney’s deputies, claims: …

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A new ISC rides to the rescue

Puzzle no more about dormant national productivity – the cavalry have arrived in the form of Andy Haldane, chief economist of the BoE (Bank of England) who is to chair the government’s new ISC – Industrial Strategy Council – it’s another quango of sorts for a select few of our great and good to deal …

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Further UK education needs

“The new prime minister will have to rise to the skills and productivity challenge, and make sure that everyone, no matter where they come from, can get a chance to have a great job”, says Anne Milton, UK Minister for Skills and Apprenticeships The following is an article she wrote in FEWeek I want the …

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Turbocharging Australian productivity

Adrian Blundell-Wignall, former director of the OECD and professor at Sydney University, says: “It’s not enough to tweak R&D incentives – we, Australia, need a detailed plan that will change the whole climate for smart investment and productivity growth During the (recent) election, the focus was on tax cuts and “having a go” The Treasurer …

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GDP – Consumer Surpli

Consumer surplus is defined as the difference between the highest price a consumer would have been willing to pay and the price actually paid It’s the unquantified value customers obtain from tangible stuff they buy – such benefits include taking less time or effort to do things, obtaining more fun and pleasure from life, having …

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GDP – Flaws

At present, GDP is universally taken to be not just a measure of national output but also shorthand for national well-being Richard Tomkin, assistant director of the ONS (Office for National Statistics), which collects all the base data, says: “GDP is used as an all-encompassing proxy for people’s living standards although never designed for this” …

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Puzzle – What puzzle?

“The Miracle Years Are Over – get used to It” So announced Ruchir Sharma, a contributing opinion writer for the NEW YORK TIMES, in a well-argued article reprinted with only minor tweaks below Across the world, economists have had to downgrade growth forecasts – but it’s not as bad as it sounds Last year (2018) …

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Productivity tops Brexit

An article by Peter Barker, Gui Tao and Xinhua – www.xinhuanet.com Improving productivity, instead of the Brexit issue, is the primary task facing the British economy at the moment, says renowned British economist Jim O’Neill “The UK being in or out of the EU (European Union) is not the most important thing facing our economic …

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Clusters need roads

An article by Maria Machancoses,  a director at Midlands Connectvestment, is fully reproduced below For centuries, good roads have influenced the way we live, work and trade As a nation that makes over 80% of journeys by road, and whose population is forecast to grow to 75m by 2050, investing in our ageing infrastructure is rightly at the top of the agenda. Rather than …

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UK productivity gap half-explained?

According to Philip Aldrick, Economics Editor of The Times, Britain’s dismal productivity gap with much of the developed world is due not only to lack of investment, bad management and low interest rates as previously thought Another significant causal factor has been found The UK’s ONS – Office for National Statistics – asked the Paris-based OECD …

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Excess regulations and legacy systems solve productivity puzzle?

Brian Caplen, editor of The Banker, says the challenges banks face with regulation and legacy IT systems hold lessons for the wider economy He points out that ‘great minds have been pondering the productivity puzzle – so why, in a time of rapid technological change, is productivity stagnant in many advanced economies?’ The UK has particular …

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Immigration pluses and minuses

The USA really should try to attract more immigrant entrepreneurs, according to Claude Barfield of the US National Venture Capital Association and Entrepreneur.com: 40% of Fortune 500 companies were founded by first or second generation immigrants, and more than half of the nation’s billion-dollar startups have an immigrant co-founder According to the National Science Foundation, only 17% of US bachelor …

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National distribution of wealth

An interesting, sometimes complex (at least to me), article by Laurie Macfarlane for www.opendemocracy.net follows – it amply demonstrates that totting up any figure for national wealth is not straightforward According to a new OECD working paper, Britain is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Net wealth is estimated to stand at around $500,000 …

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Suspect forecasts

Despite numerous forecasting clangers in recent times, the UK’s OBR (Office for Budget Responsibility) claims British productivity in the last decade has hardly grown at all and will remain sluggish over the next five years They had assumed, when advising the Chancellor, that it would return to trend after 2008 They have now decided to abandon …

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Cheap labour solves productivity puzzle?

Merryn Somerset Webb, editor of the magazine Moneyweek, claims to have solved the productivity puzzle afflicting the UK – actually, all other developed economies are suffering in much the same way  “It’s never ever seemed like much of a puzzle to us” she says, adding: “We’ve written many times over the last decade that, if you …

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UK – a hub with no spokes

Andy Haldane, chief economist at the BoE (Bank of England) and so one of the finest of finest economic thinkers, recently gave a speech about the UK’s productivity problem to the Academy of Social Sciences – clearly, we should treat his every word with great respect, or should we? The following is a precis of …

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Labour has a terrible productivity idea

According to an article for Bloomberg View by Ferdinando Giugliano, one-time member of the Financial Times editorial committee, the UK’s Labour Party has come up with a ‘terrible idea’ for sorting out the country’s current productivity problem John McDonnell, Shadow Chancellor, proposes giving the Bank of England (BoE) a yearly 3% productivity growth target to sit …

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UK SMEs waste £57 bn a year

NatWest has unveiled research, conducted by the Cebr (Centre for economic and business research) which reveals UK SMEs (defined as companies with 10 – 259 employees) could add up to £57 billion a year – more than the cost of Brexit – to the UK economy if they were as productive as SMEs in Germany …

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‘Silver Army’ advances

Excerpts follow from an article about the advancing ‘Silver Army’ by Gary Rotstein in the Pittsburgh post-gazette The future of older workers During a recent three-day presentation at Columbia University, a succession of speakers from academia and the business and health fields focused on the potential productivity of older workers who can help the economy and …

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Red-tape stifles productivity

Interesting views appeared in the Daily Telegraph from Sir John Timpson, chairman of the high-street services provider, Timpson. He was asked what he thought the main issues were when it comes to the UK’s productivity problem – his reply is presented below, en toto We’re a nation of pessimists, beating ourselves up about a lack of investment, …

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P.I.N. – a new productivity broadside?

Last week I attended the launch of a new initiative for improving UK productivity – I sent the following email to Kate Penney, PIN programme manager – she has already thanked me and promised to pass it on Kate, I thought the launch of the PIN (Productivity Insights Network) last Tuesday evening in London went well – …

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CBI rides to the rescue

Having exchanged pleasant words about my new book Productivity Knowhow with the CBI’s Director General, Carolyn Fairbairn, and members of her team, I chanced upon a report they had written, entitled: FROM OSTRICH TO MAGPIE  In it, they:  “Set out to find new ways to tackle the striking variation in productivity that exists between UK firms …

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How to improve national productivity

They say there are only two ways to produce sustained long term growth in the current material world: Increase the number of workers employed, assuming any one new worker produces as much as any other existing worker – but this is severely limited because: Birthrates, immigration constraints and right-skills availability restrict net increases The world’s …

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UK strengths far outweigh weaknesses

Listening to the ex UK foreign secretary, David Miliband, on the BBC Today  programme as he banged his tiresome ‘remainer’ drum and the economic gloom in prospect, one was prompted to ask: “Did he not hear the result of the referendum? Most people (outside London) are fed up with being told what to do by arrogant, unelected …

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National happiness beats GDP hands down

Economist Ed Conway claims in The Times that “GDP is actually pretty good at measuring the total amount of income generated in Britain” His main point is that: Every politician from right to left obsesses about income above all other measures of progress Yet income comes surprisingly far down the list of what really matters …

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Much innovation not reflected in statistics

Susan Athey, ex Microsoft and now Expedia and winner of a prestigious medal for being the best US technology economist, was interviewed by journalist Ana Fuentes The following are extracts from her article: Q. Global growth, now running at 3.5%, might be a lot higher if we took into account the whole contribution from digitalisation …

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GDP – Alternative measures

ALTERNATIVE 1 – GVA: One alternative to GDP for measuring the state of an overall economy is GVA – Gross Value Added GVA claims to measure the contribution of each individual producer, industry or sector GVA = Output value – Intermediate consumption (too complex for most) Other definitions include: The value of the amount of goods …

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Better ways to boost UK productivity?

Sam Dumitriu of the Adam Smith Institute commented on UK Chancellor Philip Hammond’s budget and the OBR’s prediction that UK growth will be a sluggish 1.5% or lower for the next five years whilst the USA is growing at twice that rate Hammond has offered support to boost R&D spending and sort out the housing crisis …

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Brexit – a fillip for UK

The EU was originally set up after WW2 for defence and security reasons – to deter a WW 3 following the ravages of the first two wars Since then, it has steadily grown from the original six founder nations (Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg) to the current 28, including the UK Poor European …

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Shoot the productivity messengers?

One groans when leading economists, senior government ministers, even John Humphries on the BBC’s Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme, trot out the same old message about the dire straits of the UK economy viz: “Woeful productivity gap” “Grim reading” “More austerity” “We’re in a new paradigm of lower productivity growth”   Philip Hammond, the dour UK …

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Government action for big productivity improvements

Words are all very well but good measures leading to worthwhile actions matter most to people and nations And, to boost national productivity, governments must look to: Boost their private sectors by helping them produce the profits which pay for everyone’s SoL (Standard of Living) and underpin their QoL (Quality of Life) Ensure all public …

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Investors need to be ‘patient’, not greedy

In an article by Dr Paul Benneworth, Senior Researcher at the Center for Higher Education Policy Studies, University of Twente in the Netherlands claims that: “German companies, often envied by the UK, take a long-term view and plough the bulk of their surpluses into investment” Their workers also accept wage moderation because they see that …

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Sector mix explains ‘productivity puzzle’?

Once upon a time, we humans kept on inventing/ innovating/ improving tangible stuff: First to meet our basic needs for must-haves such as food, shelter and/ or defence Then, to make our lives easier with like-to-haves And, nowadays, with many of those needs sated, we chase after love-to-haves which make our lives more enjoyable   It …

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GDP – National output

According to Professor Diane Coyle and economist Benjamin Mitra-Kahn in a paper entitled ‘Making the future count’, an entry and eventual winner of the Indigo prize: Economic statistics (i.e. state data) originated with governments wanting to raise taxes to wage wars i.e. wanting to know the availability of resources Then, in the early 20th century, …

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Forget GDP growth?

Jacinda Arden, new Prime Minister of New Zealand and, at 37, the world’s youngest female leader, recently claimed that free markets are a ‘blatant failure’ In future, economic performance should not be measured by GDP growth and unemployment but by whether people’s lives ‘offered enjoyment and meaning’ “We need to make sure we are looking …

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‘Flat earth’ brigade rides again

Watch, listen to or read the media and the great and good of the economic world – the heads of the UK Treasury, BoE, IFS, IMF, OECD, OBR or ONS to name but a few –  and, with rare exception, all paint the same dismal picture viz: It’s doom and gloom for the UK economy from now …

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GDP anew – Indigo Prize

The INDIGO PRIZE is awarded for the best answers to: “How would you design a new economic measure for global economies that fully acknowledges not only social and economic factors but the impact of creativity, entrepreneurship and digital skills? How should your new measure be used to improve the way we measure GDP in official statistics?” …

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Avoid ‘ludicrous’ pay levels

Once upon a time, in the UK, in the 18/ 19th centuries, many capital (factory) owners minimised their workers’ pay in order to maximise their capital gains – they overdid it – worker resistance grew and Trade Unions were formed to argue for a fair deal for employees Years later, in the 20th century, the …

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Conglomerates’ days are over – EU beware

In the last quarter of the last century, conglomerates were all the rage – the bigger the organisation, the better – CEO Owen Green built BTR – British Tyre and Rubber – into a huge business covering engineering, packaging, materials, building products and polymers He merged Dunlop, Sumitomo rubber industries, Hawker Siddeley aircraft production, Nylex industrial products, Siebe control …

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Trade Unions vote for Brexit

Some Trade Unions are beginning to realise the benefit of being free of the constraints placed upon the UK by the EU For example, the recent takeover of Opel/ Vauxhall by the French company PSA once would have been judged ‘a disaster’ because of expected closures and job losses: Now, the local Labour MP, Kelvin …

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Regional commuter network needs development

Several top business leaders are now pushing for government development of the regions as the best way to get UK productivity out of the current doldrums, back on track and closing the gap with the rest of the G7 In particular, they focus on the need to greatly improve public transport within, not between, those …

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Can PLG plug a big productivity gap?

Whilst investment, innovation, competition and luck all play a significant part in the performance of any organisation, public as well as private, it is its management that has the most influence The same applies at national level with government ministers And if managers and ministers, whatever their level, are to do their jobs well they …

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MGI assess productivity puzzle

The MGI (McKinsey Global Institute), the in-house think tank of the consulting giant McKinsey & Co, opened a recent ‘discussion paper’ on the productivity puzzle afflicting the USA and other developed economies by stating: “Now, as low birth rates slow the expansion of the labour force, increasing productivity, the output we get from every hour …

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