Jul 17

Productivity sure aint ‘dull’

The following is a letter sent to the Sunday Times on 17 July, 2017 following an article by Andrew Marr, the broadcaster and journalist, which concludes that ‘productivity is dull’

Productivity has transformed the lives of most people in the UK

What were luxuries for a select few a mere 100 years ago, if they even existed, are now considered essentials by the many – cars, TVs, supermarkets, wine, iphones, computers, hip joints, universities, foreign holidays

Over this relatively short period, the agriculture, manufacturing and then service sectors all made giant productivity improvements offering increasing benefits to more and more of their customers, the general public – unit prices were decimated whilst innovations, supply, quality and service levels rose by quantum leaps

And, in the last 25 years, the IT revolution has taken hold – most of us are now able to afford, work and/ or play with computers and the internet which have radically improved office, professional and home work and also enhanced the quality of our social lives

On top of this, the digital revolution is already building up speed as Artificial Intelligence, Big Data analytics and the Internet of Things find applications in just about every corner of our lives – ergo, civilisation is embarking on yet another massive productivity improvement adventure

Overall, therefore, productivity improvement has enabled recent generations to enjoy far better standards of living than their predecessors and there is much more to come – productivity has both an exciting history and an exciting future

So Marr finishes his leading article yesterday with a plea for higher productivity – bravo him – but then ruins his message by adding: “What a dull thought to end on”

This throwaway line reflects an attitude widespread amongst too many of our leading lights

At a recent Tory conference, Philip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer, started his speech with: “Before you switch off, I know that productivity doesn’t necessarily set pulses racing”

It’s a major reason for the UK not doing much better


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