Thursday, May 06, 2004

A long way to go

Where is the “Lisbon strategy” taking us? Downwards in the list of globally competitive states, that’s where. A high-level group is meeting in Brussels to reinvigorate the “Lisbon strategy”, whose aim it is to turn the EU economy into the most competitive, knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010. Sometimes it looks like there has been nothing but reassessment and reinvigoration from the day the strategy was published.

In the meantime, the Lausanne based independent International Institute for Management Development, known as IMD, founded in 1990 but, in reality, a successor to two other highly regarded business schools, IMI (founded in 1946) and IMEDE (founded in 1957), has published The World Competitiveness Yearbook. This ranks 60 countries according to 323 categories in the world competitiveness stakes.

Top of the list by a big margin is the USA. Then we get Singapore, Canada, Australia, Iceland and Hong Kong. What of the EU and its member states? Denmark is the highest ranking of these at number 7 and even she has slipped down from number 5. Finland, at number 8 has slipped down in the last year from number 3. And so it goes.

The UK weighs in at number 22, having slipped down from number 19. The East European countries have done particularly badly and this may be not unconnected with the fact that they have been hastily implementing the acquis communautaire in the last year. Estonia, at number 28, has slipped down from number 22, Slovakia has actually gone up from 46 to 40 but Hungary has slipped down from 34 to 42, the Czech Republic from 35 to 43, Slovenia from 40 to 45, Poland from 55 to 57. Well, they can comfort themselves with the thought that of the longer-standing members of the EU only Portugal has remained in the same position, number 39, since last year. All the others have slipped down.

The most competitive economy by 2010? We’ll be lucky, at the rate we are going, not to slip too far down behind the Latin American countries. As for competing with the Far East – forget it. The EU is not in the same league.

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