This might seem a bit anorak of me, but it is really important…even if it does lag behind what’s happening by two years – for some reason. It concerns the UK’s commitment in business and industry to research and development (R&D) compared to the rest of Europe. It is, if you like, a measure of whether Britain’s private sector is in take-the-money-and-run mode, or genuinely thinking of the way to create usp products in the longer term.
The latest ONS report on it is out today. It covers the 2012 period – but it follows a trend that has been around to one extent or another since the Thatcher/Reagan years.
In 2012, the UK’s gross domestic expenditure on research and development, adjusted for inflation, decreased by 3% compared to 2011.
That decrease was from a base of just 1.77% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2011.
This is the key comparison: UK R&D expenditure in 2012 was below the EU-28 average of 2.06% of GDP.
And don’t forget – that average includes Greece, Spain, Italy, and Hungary. Nothing against those countries – they have their own problems – but compared to, say, Germany…well, we’re crap. In fact, we’re crap against pretty much everyone on this absolutely vital dimension.
Last November, the EU published the table below. It shows rather embarrassingly clearly where Britain is going wrong in terms of investment and return:
Germany tops the league…and in sales terms, it’s reaping the rewards. France too performs well, dragged down only by the size and inefficiency of its public sector. Only Finland and Spain are worse than us, and their sales results tell the same story as ours. (Denmark is an oddball one-off sitting on vast oil reserves where the investment stage is, for the time being, over – and the oil bonanza is their astonishing good luck).
Two points need to be made:
1. George Osborne’s fantasy picture of a Britain roaring out of recession on the basis of economic restructuring and fiscal austerity is shown up for what it is: a load of old shoe-repairers.
2. Britain is by far the most neo-liberal of these States, with by far the biggest percentage of its capital raised on the stock market bourse. As we can see, stock market insistence on short-term returns (and its half-brother, shareholder greed) have scorched the earth of our industrial investment landscape.
There is no new Britain, and there is no recovery. There is only spin-bollocks and atypical data grabbed at random by a sleazy Chancellor and his equally sleazy colleagues.
Colleagues like Ezak Hunt the Health Secretary, who today rejected a 1% – one per cent – pay claim from our nurses, because he too cannot tell the difference between outgoings and investment. This rejection occurs just three short months after his fellow MPs awarded themselves an 11% pay rise.
This has been Episode 5,094 of Neoliberalism, Camerlot, Westminster and Bourse Capitalism are not the answer – they are the problem.