INTOUCH : New Zealand’s rising global competitiveness

New Zealand became more globally competitive over the past year – rising one place to 18 out of 55 on the world competitiveness scoreboard, according to the IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook.
But we still trail Australia which has climbed five places to rank seventh in the world.
The United States retained its number one place, but Stephane Garelli, director of the IMD’s World Competitiveness Centre, noted that it was Japan’s financial collapse in the early 1990s, not unlike that now taking place in the US, that stripped that country of its previous first place ranking. Japan is now mid-field performer at 22nd.
The 2008 IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook ranks countries on their ability to create and sustain enterprise competitiveness. The New Zealand data, compiled in partnership with the New Zealand Institute of Management, reveals little improvement on last year’s performance in most areas of the country’s competitive performance.
IMD and NZIM identified five challenges facing New Zealand in 2008. The first, the country’s need to increase its focus on vocational education for young people, is critical if New Zealand is going to enhance its economic performance and compete effectively in an increasingly competitive world marketplace, says NZIM National chief executive David Chapman.
The other four challenges included the need to:
• Tackle water, transport and energy infrastructure issues.
• Extend the availability and take-up of broadband technology.
• Review the impact of emerging carbon trading policies.
• Introduce innovative productivity strategies.
IMD ranked 55 countries on 331 criteria grouped into four competitiveness factors: economic performance, government efficiency, business efficiency and infrastructure. New Zealand remained static on business efficiency, improved one place on infrastructure, climbed from 40th to 34th place on economic performance and remained at sixth place on government efficiency.
“As more competitive nation we didn’t make much ground this year but, at least we did not go backwards,” Chapman says.
“The big issues for us are still our overall mediocre economic performance, our brain drain, our shortage of skilled labour and our inability to attract positive direct investment. Our shortage of communications technology investment and high costs of some technology services, such as mobile, is also an ongoing concern for New Zealand.”
Chapman remains concerned that New Zealand’s level of higher education ranks mid field at 23rd on the scale, as does the level of management education (22nd).
“As I said last year and the year before that, much of the solution to New Zealand’s enhanced global competitiveness rests with positive attitudes toward better and more sustained management education and training, starting at the secondary school level and continuing through trade training,” Chapman says.

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