regional competitiveness critical to the 'national productivity pact'
Yesterday, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd urged the nation to “embrace a new national competitiveness agenda” and called on businesses and unions to join forces and dedicate themselves to keeping Australia’s growth rate above two per cent in a “national productivity pact”.
But if we are serious about national economic growth, reducing the disparities in human capital, access to new technologies and investment in research and development across Australia’s regions is critical. Our CEO, Su McCluskey, says that any strategy for economic growth needs to invest in the key drivers of endogenous growth within regional Australia, which accounts for 67 per cent of national exports.
“Improving access to health and education, and ensuring businesses and communities are technologically ready, innovative and supported by dynamic regional institutions across all Australia is crucial to achieving growth and productivity,” Ms McCluskey says. “These have emerged as the key areas that give any region, whatever its size, location or other competitive advantages, the ability to respond to changes in markets and grow other time,” she said. “It is also within these crucial areas that some of the biggest gaps across the country can be found”.
“The percentage of households with a broadband connection across Australia’s 560 Local Government Areas, for example, ranges from the highest 85.40% to the lowest at 9.8%,” she says. “The percentage of the workforce with a technical or further education qualification ranges from 47.50% to 4.9%. Workforce participation spans 93% to 27.9%”.
This data is taken from [In]Sight, Australia’s first regional competitiveness index, launched by the RAI late last month. [In]Sight ranks regions across ten themes and 59 indicators of sustainable growth, including employment, infrastructure, small business presence and industry investment.
“We can, for the first time, clearly see the challenges facing Australia’s economy and where they exist,” she said. “If we can bring together business, community, researchers and governments to focus on these challenges then we have a real opportunity to meet these national aspirations and secure our economic future.”
“We know from work by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development that across the developed world, two-thirds of the growth between 1995 and 2007 was underpinned by growth from a diversity of regions within nations,” she said. “Stronger regions are a stronger Australia.”