Singapore’s growth puts west in the shade

In the UK we feel fortunate with GDP growth of 0.3% in a quarter, while Singapore rubs along with quarterly growth of 3.7% year-on-year, and quarter-on-quarter growth currently coming in at a whopping 15.2%.

On one level, it is unfair to make comparisons. Singapore is still part of the emerging market of the east, although it is at an overall stage of development that is far higher than its geographically larger neighbours. The tight-knit, homogenous nature of Singapore means that it has found the transition to a developed country much easier.

But while Singapore continues to show strong growth, the UK and other developed nations lag behind. What we can do to catch up? QE hasn’t achieved this; it is a stop-gap measure, which can have only a limited impact on the broader economy.

What is needed instead is a wholesale reappraisal of the UK’s position in the broader global economy. A reorientation away from the slowing economies of Europe and towards the Commonwealth and emerging markets would be a reflection of the UK’s status as a trading nation. Our period as the ‘workshop of the world’, commonly viewed as a golden age to which we should return, was in fact a historical blip; Britain (and before it, England) is a nation built on international trade. The City of London’s pre-eminence is a constant reminder of this.

Singapore also leads the way in education. The UK government’s reforms to education, announced this week, may help, but a less top-down approach will be the more effective in the long run.

Finally, a more sensible approach to corporate taxes on our part would not be a bad idea. Outside of the south-east the UK has struggled to boost economic growth. Cutting back corporate taxes for firms setting up in the south-west or industrial midlands could help to reinvigorate those areas, making the overall UK economy less dependent on the economic performance of London and the City of London in particular.

The west runs the risk of being left behind in the global race, as the prime minister describes the competition between states. Free from the eurozone crisis, the UK has a chance to move ahead of its European partners in a way that will guarantee a brighter future for its citizens. 

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