chapter  5
24 Pages

Competitiveness, Productivity and Economic Growth across the European Regions


REGIONAL COMPETITIVENESS AND In the UK, for example, the government has assigned increasing importance to the competitiveness of thePRODUCTIVITY country’s regions and cities as part of its reorientation

Recent years have seen a surge of academic and policy of national and regional policy (H. M. Treasury, attention devoted to the notion of ‘competitiveness’: 2001, 2003; Department of Trade and nations, regions and cities, we are told, have no option Industry, 2004; Office of the Deputy Prime but to strive to be competitive in order to survive in Minister, 2003, 2004). In the EU, the issue of the new global marketplace and the ‘new competition’ regional competitiveness has taken on particular signifi-(Best , 1990, 2001) being forged by the new informa-cance not only in relation to its aim to close the tion or knowledge-driven economy. Policy-makers at ‘competitiveness gap’ with the USA, but also as part all levels have been swept up in this competitiveness of its pursuit of social and economic cohesion. Raising fever. Thus, the importance of competitiveness has been the competitiveness of Europe’s lagging and less prosa recurring theme in Organization for Economic Co-perous regions is regarded as crucial to social cohesion, operation andDevelopment assessments of the advanced especially in the context of monetary union and EU economies. Similarly, the European Commission has enlargement. In fact, although still small, the literature become much exercised by what it sees as the inferior on ‘territorial competitiveness’ is now growing rapidly. competitiveness of the European Union (EU), and has However, this new focus on ‘place competitiveness’ set as one of its goals the catch-up of EU competi-raises a host of questions about what precisely is meant tiveness with that of the USA by 2010. Likewise, the by the competitiveness of regions, cities and localities. UK government has placed the need to boost national In what sense can one talk of regional competitiveness? competitiveness at the centre of its policy agenda. In what sense do regions and cities compete? Tradition-

This concern with competitiveness has quickly ally, neither economists nor economic geographers spread to regional, urban and local policy discourse. have tended to frame their discussions of regional Growing interest has emerged in the ‘regional founda-growth and development in terms of such questions, tions’ of national competitiveness and with developing or certainly not explicitly in the language of comnew forms of regionally based policy interventions to petitiveness. Only recently has this state of affairs begun help improve the competitiveness of every region and to change (e.g. Steinle, 1992; Cheshire and

Gordon , 1995; Duffy, 1995; Group of Lisbon ,major city, and hence the national economy as a whole.