A “new” UK industrial strategy ?

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Question 1: Do you agree that the UK needs a new industrial policy?

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Question 2: Do you agree that the UK needs a new regional policy?

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The return of UK industrial strategy: top economists on its desirability and prospects for success

A majority of UK-based macroeconomists think that the economy would benefit from a new industrial strategy, although many doubt that the government is well-placed to deliver good policy. In the latest Centre for Macroeconomics and CEPR survey, an even larger majority of experts consider that the UK needs a new regional strategy to tackle inequality across different parts of the country – though again there are concerns about the potential for poor policy implementation.

Introduction

The UK government’s new Economy and Industrial Strategy cabinet committee met for the first time in August 2016. Charged with delivering ‘an economy that works for everyone, with a strong industrial strategy at its heart’, the committee is chaired by the prime minister and attended by the chancellor of the exchequer and the secretaries of state of ten other ministries.[i]

Concrete proposals were unveiled by the prime minister at her first regional Cabinet meeting in January 2017. The government will offer new ‘sector deals’ that will support the industries of the future where the UK has the potential to lead the world.

Deals will be organised along the lines of current collaborations with the automotive and aerospace industries, with support from the government in the form of investment in research and development (R&D), a new system of technical education and better infrastructure. The prime minister announced that the government would particularly welcome work on early sector deals in life sciences, the transition to ultra low emission vehicles, industrial digitalisation, the nuclear industry and the creative industries.[ii]

UK industrial policy

People have argued about industrial strategy for a long time. Among the first economists to make a case for industrial policy was Alexander Hamilton (1791),[iii] who advocated ‘bounties’ as a way of promoting US manufacturing. In modern terms, his bounties are subsidies – and his reasoning was a precursor of the ‘infant industry’ argument. Friedrich List (1841)[iv] similarly thought that industrial growth was too important to be left to the chance of the market. Adam Smith (1776)[v] would have disagreed.

Industrial policy is seen by some as being instrumental in the success of many East Asian economies, most notably China.[vi] The main criticism going forward is that industrial strategy may do more harm than good if the government is not well-placed to assess the costs and benefits of making deals with some sectors ahead of others.

Successful industrial policy requires the government to have the right information, capabilities and incentives to make good decisions. Pack and Saggi (2006)[vii] are worried about that being possible because ‘the range and depth of knowledge that policy-makers would have to master to implement a successful policy is extraordinary’. There may also be a risk that industrial policy is captured by vested interests.

Modern thinking on industrial policy has moved on since the 1960s, when it was used to create national champions in industries thought to be essential to the UK economy. These policies were generally seen as unsuccessful,[viii] and past failed attempts to pick winners led Reuters to react to the launch of the Economy and Industrial Strategy cabinet committee by stating that ‘industrial Policy has a toxic legacy in Britain’.[ix]

Modern thinking in industrial policy stresses less the infant industry argument, instead arguing for intervention on the basis of knowledge spillovers, dynamic scale economies, coordination failures and informational externalities.

One of the most prominent proponents of the new thinking is Dani Rodrik (2004).[x] He sees long-term growth as depending on the development of fundamental capabilities in the form of human capital and institutions, and so argues that ‘the right model for industrial policy is not that of an autonomous government applying Pigovian taxes or subsidies, but of strategic collaboration between the private sector and the government with the aim of uncovering where the most significant obstacles to restructuring lie and what type of interventions are most likely to remove them.’

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Question 1: Do you agree that the UK needs a new industrial policy?

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A majority of UK-based macroeconomists agree that the UK needs a new industrial strategy, although many doubt that the government is well-placed to deliver good policy. Of the 36 economists who answered this question in the Centre for Macroeconomics (CFM) survey, 25 (69%) agree or strongly agree that the UK needs a new industrial policy. Seven (19%) respondents either disagree or strongly disagree, with four (11%) neither agreeing nor disagreeing. When weighted by self-reported confidence in their opinions, the proportion agreeing that the UK needs a new industrial strategy is 72%.

There is widespread agreement among those surveyed that the debate over industrial policy takes place against a backdrop of years, if not decades, of weak productivity in the UK.

There is also universal disappointment at experiences with previous UK industrial policies from the 1950s to the 1970s. As David Miles (Imperial College) puts it, ‘the UK has a woeful history of government initiatives on industrial policy.’ Richard Portes is similarly damning when asking rhetorically ‘which of our successful firms have benefitted from “industrial policy”?’ Michael Wickens (Cardiff Business School) thinks that ‘in the past, in the UK, it has proved a waste of money.’

The distinction between good and bad industrial policy is recognised by almost all respondents, irrespective of whether they agree or not that the UK needs a new industrial strategy. Good policy, as favoured by Nicholas Oulton (London School of Economics, LSE), requires ‘additional spending by the state on infrastructure, R&D, training, and education, since it is well known that we have clear deficiencies in these areas.’

The need to direct industrial policy towards raising UK capabilities is a recurring theme in respondents’ comments. Examples of bad policy would be the ‘picking of winners’, which Jagjit Chadha (National Institute of Economic and Social Research, NIESR) worries ‘may freeze the economic structure and distort incentives’; or measures aimed at ‘preserving jobs in established industries’, which Christopher Pissarides (LSE) would not support.

David Bell (University of Stirling) thinks that ‘any new policy should avoid focusing on individual companies.’ How the government’s proposals relate to good and bad policy exercises Patrick Minford (Cardiff Business School), who thinks that ‘the part of the policy that invites ridicule is the “backing of winning sectors and industries”, but I doubt whether this will gain traction.’

What divides panellists most is whether the government is likely to introduce good or bad policies. All those who disagree with the call for a new UK industrial strategy base their opposition in part on a belief that industrial strategy is more likely to involve bad than good policies.

Morten Ravn (University College London, UCL) says ‘it is hard to believe that policy-makers are in a strong position to apply an efficient industrial policy, free of concerns about voters and current financial interests, and given how strongly parties with vested interests will try to impact on the policies.’ Arguing similarly that no policy may be better than bad policy, Tony Yates (University of Birmingham) ‘would prefer limited state capacity and resources to be directed towards providing public goods better and more efficiently.’

UK regional policy

The Economy and Industrial Strategy cabinet committee has not explicitly pronounced on the regional implications of using industrial policy to promote new sector deals. Many countries have adopted several different flavours of regional policy.

An existing UK government policy that targets regional concerns is the Enterprise Zones programme, which was last expanded in the 2015 Spring Budget.[xi] In common with similar initiatives around the globe, the aim is to promote development in specific locations through tax concessions, infrastructure incentives and reduced regulation. Across England, 48 Enterprise Zones are planned to be in place in 2017, specialising in a wide range of business sectors. Businesses in Enterprise Zones benefit from 100% business rate discounts, simplified planning procedures, government support for superfast broadband and enhanced capital allowances. [xii]

The performance of UK Enterprise Zones was evaluated by the Department of the Environment in 1995.[xiii] That study concludes that around 126,000 jobs were created since the 1980s, of which up to 58,000 were additional jobs. The cost per additional job created was around £17,000 (£26,000 at 2016 prices), based on an assumed ten-year job life.

More recently, research by Criscuolo et al (2016)[xiv] finds that areas in the UK eligible for Regional Selective Assistance created significantly more jobs than ineligible areas. This treatment effect was driven by the behaviour of small firms, and was not due to job displacement between eligible and ineligible areas.

In the United States, Rubin and Wilder (1989)[xv] conclude that the Urban Enterprise Zone in Evansville, Indiana, was cost-effective in creating jobs and so ‘can be a cost-effective local economic development tool.’ In 1996, the same authors surveyed 34 state programmes, concluding that enterprise zones ‘have not lived up to the broad panacea-like imagery conjured up by early Federal proposals’, but still maintain potential utility as an economic development tool.[xvi]

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Question 2: Do you agree that the UK needs a new regional policy?

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An even larger majority of UK-based macroeconomists agree that the UK needs a new regional strategy. Of the 38 panellists who answered this question in the CFM survey, 30 (79%) agree or strongly agree that a new regional strategy is needed. Only three (8%) respondents disagree with the proposition, with five (13%) neither agreeing nor disagreeing. The proportion agreeing on the need for a new UK regional strategy rises to 87% when responses are weighted by self-reported confidence levels.

Many panellists are concerned about regional inequality in the UK. Wouter Den Haan (LSE) notes that ‘UK regional developments have been very skewed with unequal progress across the country’, and Angus Armstrong (NIESR) supports a new regional policy ‘for many reasons, not least the legitimacy of our external policy and the integrity of the union.’ Panicos Demetriades (University of Leicester) argues that Brexit makes the need for regional policy even more pressing, because ‘the less-favoured areas in the UK that benefitted from EU structural funds will suffer otherwise, and that will increase regional disparities.’

Several respondents would like to see regional policy focused on cities. Wendy Carlin (UCL) believes that ‘the focus should be on productivity policy for cities and on understanding the difference between dynamic cities and those that are left behind.’ John Van Reenen (MIT and LSE) says that ‘the UK needs to continue to decentralize more power to city-regions.’ And Ray Barrell (Brunel University) is even more specific in wanting regional policy to ‘encourage potential growth poles such as Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh and Manchester, based around world class universities.’ The success of such policies in France is noted by Nicholas Oulton.

As with industrial policy, opposition to a UK regional strategy among survey respondents is based on fears that new policy will be poorly implemented by the government. Ethan Ilzetzki (LSE) says that ‘I can see some rationale for regional policy, but again am not sure this is helpful in practice.’ The other sceptics are David Miles (Imperial College), who is ‘doubtful that a “new regional policy” will be very successful’, and Patrick Minford (Cardiff Business School), who is concerned that promoting regional growth ‘involves politicians making judgements about the economy’s structure for which they have no basis.’

Even though he agrees that the UK needs a new regional policy, David Smith (Sunday Times) warns that ‘reversing decades of relative decline for some of Britain’s regions will itself take decades.’

 

 

 

 

 

[i] New Cabinet committee to tackle top government economic priority, Government Press Release, 2 August 2016, https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-cabinet-committee-to-tackle-top-government-economic-priority

[ii] PM unveils plans for a modern Industrial Strategy fit for Global Britain, Government Press Release, 22 January 2017, https://www.gov.uk/government/news/pm-unveils-plans-for-a-modern-industrial-strategy-fit-for-global-britain

[iii] Hamilton (1791), Report on the Subject of Manufactures

[iv] List (1841), The National System of Political Economy

[v] Smith (1776), An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations

[vi] Weiss (2005), Export Growth and Industrial Policy: Lessons from the East Asian Miracle, Asian Development Bank Research Paper No. 26

[vii] Pack and Saggi (2006), Is there a case for industrial policy? A Critical Survey, World Bank Research Observer, Vol. 21 No. 2

[viii] Owen (2012), Industrial policy in Europe since the Second World War: what has been learnt? European Centre for International Political Economy, Occasional Paper No. 1

[ix] PM May resurrects industrial policy as Britain prepares for Brexit, Reuters, 2 August 2016, http://uk.reuters.com/article/us-britain-eu-industry-idUKKCN10C3CR

[x] Rodrik (2004), Industrial Policy for the Twenty-First Century, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 4767

[xi] Enterprise Zones, House of Commons Library Briefing Paper No. 5942, 17 March 2016

[xiii] Final Evaluation of Enterprise Zones, PA Cambridge Economic Consultants, HMSO 1995

[xiv] Criscuolo, Martin, Overman and Van Reenen (2016), The Causal Effects of an Industrial Policy, DEP Discussion Paper No. 1113

[xv] Wilder and Rubin (1989), Urban Enterprise Zones: Employment Impacts and Fiscal Incentives, Journal of the American Planning Association, Vol. 55 No. 4

[xvi] Wilder and Rubin (1996), Rhetoric versus Reality: A Review of Studies on State Enterprise Zone Programs, Journal of the American Planning Association, Vol 62 No. 4

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How the experts responded

Do you agree that the UK needs a new industrial policy?

Participant Answer Confidence level Comment
Jagjit Chadha National Institute of Economic and Social Research Agree Confident
We certainly need to think about how develop collaborations between the private sector, the knowledge base and government. But I do not yet know what now mean by an industrial strategy: picking winners may freeze the economic structure and distort incentives. The real policy may require micro or regional level analysis of public good and financial constraints faced by industries.
Ray Barrell Brunel University London Agree Confident
There are many causes of the UK’s low level of productivity relative to other northern European economies, but it is unlikely that a new industrial policy will help much. Industrial policy in the UK was a relative failure in the UK before membership of the Single Market and the EU reduced the role of the national state in the area, transferring some powers to Brussels and constraining others. The reasons for failure in the 1950s in to the 1970s are well documented, for instance by Broadberry and Crafts (1996) and by the OECD surveys on Regulatory Performance in the UK. They were driven by the nature of the UK elite running policy, where all right thinking men (from Oxbridge not Uxbridge) knew what the right policies were. Evidence was not needed. A similar group of people drove the Leave campaign, saying they wanted control back. It was therefore not surprising that this group of people want to return to the industrial policies that Margaret Thatcher’s Singe Market took away from them. They will run the country in what they perceive as its best interest, which means their best interest. It will be expensive, and it is one of the costs of leaving the EU. The UK does have a low level of R&D spending, and it does have poor infrastructure and poor intermediate education. The first may be addressed by a new industrial policy, the second will possibly be addressed, but HS2 and Hinkley Point are poor indicators of future success. The last, poor intermediate education, will not be addressed by spending resources on Grammar Schools. Well-designed industrial policies do appear to work, but it is not clear that is what the UK will produce. It would be better to have not been put in a position where an incompetent elite starts to repeat policies from the past.
David Bell University of Stirling Agree Confident
Any new policy should avoid focusing on individual companies. There may be value in investment in skills, infrastructure and information flows aimed at improving the competitiveness of domestic value chains. I guess this fits into the Rodrik view of the determinants of growth.
Silvana Tenreyro London School of Economics Agree Confident
Brexit will change many aspects of the UK economy. There is still uncertainty about the scope and consequences that Brexit will have on the economy. (Let us not forget that Brexit has not happened yet!). I think the UK needs to think about industrial policy among many other policies. It is far from clear, however, that industrial policy will solve the problems the economy will likely face or that it will be enough to boost long term growth. The shape industrial policy takes will matter a lot. With industrial policy, the devil is in the details.
Wendy Carlin University College London Agree Confident
If a new industrial policy is interpreted as a policy oriented at productivity growth involving private and public sector collaboration, then this is needed.
Elias Papaioannou London Business School Disagree Confident
Martin Ellison University of Oxford Agree Not confident
Omar Licandro University of Nottingham Neither agree nor disagree Confident
Gianluca Benigno London School of Economics Agree Confident
Wouter Den Haan London School of Economics Agree Confident
In principle there are very useful things a government can do in terms of industrial policy, for example, in terms of investing in R&D, education, infrastructure. The question is, of course, whether governments including the current UK government are able to do it right.
Fabien Postel-Vinay University College London Strongly agree Confident
Panicos Demetriades University of Leicester Agree Confident
It needs an industrial strategy that addresses human capital deficiencies, such as skills mismatches in the labour market. The UK is, however, not lacking in strong institutions and strategic collaborations between public and private sectors.
Patrick Minford Cardiff Business School Agree Not confident
It really depends what is meant by this. Much of what the new committee has said is motherhood and apple pie. The government has to provide infrastructure and supports science through various initiatives with universities and so on. R&D contributes to growth, as does human capital creation and the creation of a pro-business climate through lowering barriers to entry and to entrepreneurship. The part of the policy that invites ridicule is the 'backing of winning sectors and industries'; but I doubt whether this will gain any traction. The last government wanted to stimulate manufacturing and 'rebalance the economy'. This got nowhere predictably. However the idea that the government should pursue policies that support the business climate and underpin private investment through things government can undeniably do is good. This government will be mainly concerned with getting the Brexit policies right; among them will be good 'industrial policies' of that sort.
Morten Ravn University College London Disagree Confident
Britain's problem is low productivity and it has been so for decades. Brexit will probably make this even worse given that there is a risk of comparative advantage in financial services and given the possibility of loss of access to the internal market. To address low productivity, Britain should invest in education, infrastructure and in efficient regulation and institutions. It is hard to believe that policy makers are in a strong position to apply an efficient industrial policy free of concerns about voters and current financial interests and given how strongly parties with vested interests will try to impact on the policies.
Michael Wickens Cardiff Business School & University of York Disagree Confident
I am extremely skeptical about the likely effectiveness of such a policy. In the past, in the UK, it has proved a waste of money and I see no reason why it would be different this time. UK governments have not proved to be good at picking winners either in business and industry or in technology. Government should support research and development in universities and perhaps through tax breaks to industry. Evidence in favour of the role of government in industry is the work of Mariana Mazzucato for the US, but I think it unlikely that this would apply in the UK.
Lucio Sarno Cass Business School Agree Very confident
Angus Armstrong National Institute of Economic and Social Research Strongly agree Very confident
This should combine a strong element of regional policy. Output (GVA) per wokforce shows enormous variation accross the UK and understanding the challenges in the low productivity areas would be an obvious way to raise national productivity. This should be complemented by tertiary education policy and the regions.
David Smith Sunday Times Agree Very confident
That an industrial strategy is needed to build on the current, piecemeal, sector-buy-sector approach, should not be in doubt. These days an industrial strategy has to mean the service sector as well as industry. It also has to be more than a set of aims and ambitions.
Etienne Wasmer Sciences Po, Paris Neither agree nor disagree Confident
Nicholas Oulton London School of Economics Strongly agree Extremely confident
I strongly agree and am extremely confident in doing so because the term “industrial policy” is very broad but must cover some things which could help to solve our productivity problem. I am strongly in favour of additional spending by the state on infrastructure, R&D, training, and education since it is well known that we have clear deficiencies in these areas. Extra spending in at least some of these areas will have a regional bias. Beyond this there is a case to be made for trying to foster development in sectors where the UK is thought to have a comparative advantage. But it is not clear why the sectors detailed in the Green Paper were selected. I can think of others, e.g. software, for which a case could be made.
Sir Christopher... London School of Economics Agree Very confident
Industrial policy should be directed to new technology and new industries, not to preserving jobs in established industries. A good policy internalised the externalities of new technologies
David Cobham Heriot Watt University Strongly agree Confident
It is, of course, not true that the UK has had no industrial strategy for the last 30-40 years. It's just that that strategy focused only on one industry, the financial industry. After the crisis everyone agreed that some rebalancing of the economy was called for, but so far no coherent policy has been put in place. In the next few years Brexit will almost certainly reduce the comparative advantages of UK finance. A Rodrik-style industrial policy - not picking winners but providing an appropriate environment - therefore makes a great deal of sense.
Alan Sutherland University of St. Andrews Agree Confident
Michael McMahon University of Oxford Agree Very confident
The UK has for many years struggled with weak productivity. There are also significant regional challenges with some regions poorer and with higher unemployment / lower employment. A new industrial policy that encouraged the establishment of sustainable local economies which are themselves interconnected to the rest of the UK could at least help the latter issue. If such policies encouraged more dynamically-growing industries, then they could even help the former productivity issue.
Akos Valentinyi University of Manchester Strongly disagree Very confident
The British economy has a productivity problem as it lags in labour productivity not only relative to the United States, but also relative to France and Germany. It is unclear how the proposed policies will improve labour productivity. In particular, it focuses on sector which do not lag behind in terms of labour productivity.
Jan Eeckhout University College London Agree Confident
Paul De Grauwe London School of Economics No opinion Confident
As long as the term "new industrial policy" is not well defined I cannot have an opinion.
David Miles Imperial College Disagree Confident
The UK has a woeful history of government initiatives on industrial policy. While there are good economic reasons to think that externalities and missing markets can, in theory, create a role for efficiency enhancing "industrial policy", there is a lot of empirical evidence that in the UK there is not the institutional capability to deliver any gains.
Kevin Hjortshøj... Oxford University Neither agree nor disagree Confident
In my view there is a case for selective EU industrial policy. In the UK case however, the most important industrial policy issue is maintaining membership of the Single Market and Customs Union, and the UK has ruled that out. So it's hard to take their industrial policy aspirations seriously.
Ethan Ilzetzki London School of Economics Strongly disagree Confident
While there are conditions under which an industrial strategy is useful in theory, it is rare for industrial strategy to be useful in practice, particularly in high income economies. It is nearly impossible for the government to do this without picking winners and losers. In an advanced and dynamic economy like the UK, the government has no particular advantage in forecasting the industries of the future. This should be left to the free market and to private enterprise. The government should rather focus on providing the physical and regulartory infrastructure that entrepreneurs require.
Ricardo Reis London School of Economics and Columbia University Neither agree nor disagree Not confident
Research on this topic seems to me to be quite inconclusive, with some evidence for some positive returns (https://ideas.repec.org/p/cep/cepdps/dp1113.html or https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/mac.20120103), and other evidence for neutral or negative effects (http://voxeu.org/article/surprising-prevalence-surprises-export-specialisation or http://www.nber.org/papers/w18694). If a new industrial policy is adopted, then it is probably wise to keep it modest and use recent research to design it effectively.
Jonathan Temple University of Bristol Agree Not confident
Andrew Mountford Royal Holloway Strongly agree Extremely confident
Industrial policy is a term that means different things to different people. To some it is about giving tax breaks in a race to the bottom game of international "beggar-thy-neighbor" tax competition, while to others it is about investing in the development of skills and infrastructure to complement/partner private sector investment. I am not in favor of the first interpretation as it is irresponsible at a global level and will ultimately be self defeating. Support for subsidizing training and providing public investment depends on whether you think there are externalities associated with skill accumulation and public infrastructure. I believe that there are very strong externalities associated with these investments and so support such an industrial strategy.
Kate Barker British Coal Staff Superannuation Scheme Strongly agree Very confident
Industrial sounds a bit old hat - but yes, I do think the UK government needs to work out how to be collaborative with industry in several sectors. And we have to not fret over every mistake!
Joseph Pearlman City University London Agree Confident
With the advent of Brexit, it seems that the UK is slightly at risk with regard to financial services, so now is the time for government to collaborate with industry to help identify the obstacles that Rodrik suggests are critical for the development of other industries.
Tony Yates University of Birmingham Disagree Confident
The only sense in which I agree is that I worry that the edifice of regional funds, and discretion over business rates means that we have a non-neutral industrial policy already, which I'm against, for conventional reasons. Would prefer limited state capacity and resources to be directed towards providing public goods better and more efficiently, including, relevant here, vocational education and regional infrastructure.
Richard Portes London Business School and CEPR Agree Not confident
'Horizontal' policies ok - education and training. Otherwise the legacy is indeed 'toxic' - been there, done that, and which of our successful firms have benefited from 'industrial policy'? What we need is a sensible immigration and visa policy that attracts and enables good people to stay. And we'll need some new institutions if we cease to rely on those in EU - e.g., medical. And remember most of the best in brightest in Whitehall (those who haven't left) will be heavily occupied with Brexit over the next several years - what left for 'industrial policy'?

Do you agree that the UK needs a new regional policy?

Participant Answer Confidence level Comment
Jagjit Chadha National Institute of Economic and Social Research Agree Confident
Regional divides have been a staple of conversation in the UK since at least the 1980s. They are part of the story behind the referendum result of last year. We need to create more regional centres of employment and industrial excellence. Again we need to look carefully at each region or sub-region to try and understand what exactly is missing.
David Bell University of Stirling Agree Not confident
I am not confident that Enterprise Zones will add significantly to economic activity. Unless the policies are carefully designed, displacement effects may predominate. Regional Selective Assistance still exists in Scotland. An evaluation in 2008 of the scheme's operation over the period 2000 to 2004 estimated costs per job in the range £13,272 to £34,419 and a positive net present value. The UK government is also in the process of devolving significant tax powers to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland since 2016. It remains to be seen whether this form of regional policy which involves transferring fiscal risk to sub-national governments increases growth rates in these areas. Current research on the effects of fiscal decentralisation on growth does not provide strongly supportive evidence. Similar arguments may apply to the transfer of fiscal powers to the "Northern Powerhouse". The difficulty of establishing an appropriate counterfactual will make evaluation of these policy initiatives somewhat tricky.
Ray Barrell Brunel University London Agree Confident
A new regional policy should be designed to enhance growth, and not just support declining regions. Perhaps an emphasis on infrastructure may help, but that should perhaps be local transport and education, as inter regional links sometimes just make it easier to bring in goods and services, and does not aid production. Supporting small firm creation and development in growing industries are clearly an important parts of such a strategy. It should encourage potential growth poles such as Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh and Manchester, based around world class universities. It should also not hinder London, as that region will have to replace jobs lost by leaving the EU. However, we should not hope for much from the right thinking people who have led us out of the EU.
Silvana Tenreyro London School of Economics Agree Confident
The UK needs to rethink its regional policy as economic growth has been highly uneven across region and inequality has been increasing to worrisome levels.
Wendy Carlin University College London Agree Confident
The focus should be on a productivity policy for cities and on understanding the difference between dynamic cities and those that are left behind.
Elias Papaioannou London Business School Agree Confident
Martin Ellison University of Oxford Agree Confident
The success of a regional policy should not necessarily be measured in terms of new jobs created. It is too harsh to demand that regional policy is a win-win for all regions, and thinking in these terms may well be counter-productive as it restricts the scope and magnitude of any policy. If the intention is to re-balance the economy then moving some jobs from successful to less successful regions should be seen as a positive outcome, even if no new jobs are created.
Omar Licandro University of Nottingham Neither agree nor disagree Confident
Gianluca Benigno London School of Economics Neither agree nor disagree Not confident
Wouter Den Haan London School of Economics Strongly agree Confident
UK regional developments have been very skewed with unequal progress across the country. In theory, there are useful policies that one can think of. Whether UK governments would be able to implement something sensible is less clear.
Fabien Postel-Vinay University College London Agree Not confident
Panicos Demetriades University of Leicester Agree Confident
Brexit will make this necessary because the less favoured areas in the UK and those that benefited frim EU structural funds will suffer otherwise, which will increase regional economic disparities.
Patrick Minford Cardiff Business School Disagree Not confident
Again it really depends what you mean. A policy of aggressively promoting 'regional' growth (and leaning against London and the SE) involves politicians making judgements about the economy's structure for which they have no basis. However there has always been a willingness to help struggling regions to get over supply shocks- e.g. the contraction of the coal and steel industries. This makes perfect sense for a nation with solidarity. Indeed it can be thought of as a prerequisite for a successful currency union.
John VanReenen London School of Economics Agree Not confident
The UK needs to continue decentralize more power to city-regions. See our report https://www.thersa.org/discover/publications-and-articles/reports/unleashing-metro-growth-final-recommendations
Morten Ravn University College London Neither agree nor disagree Not confident
It is clear that there are huge regional disparities in the UK with London and the South East outperforming other regions. It is less clear that such disparities can be addressed in the most efficient manner by regional policies. I would suggest again that investment in education and in infrastructure may be more effective.
Michael Wickens Cardiff Business School & University of York Neither agree nor disagree Not confident
The problem faced by the regions outside the South East is the real exchange rate. The UK economy has become unbalanced due largely to the financial sector in London attracting capital and strengthening sterling. The other regions have found it difficult to export as a result. Regional policy won't help this but Brexit, and its effects on the financial sector, may. Better transport links would help the regions as would better internet connections, especially in rural areas. I am very skeptical about just giving money to local government.
Lucio Sarno Cass Business School Agree Very confident
Angus Armstrong National Institute of Economic and Social Research Strongly agree Extremely confident
For many reasons, not least the legitimacy of our external policy and the integrity of the union. Obvioulsy this needs to be evidence based. I do not think that tax subsidies are necessarily the best way. But productivity levels and trends have become so divergent as long as London suffers some degree of slowdown then there is no obvious area which can offset this. This requires a real rethink of poliyc. For example, identifiable public expenditure is greater in London and the South than the North and how do we include our public support for tertiary education across the UK. Can we have technology only graduate schools in the North? Or chemical science in Teeside rather than London.
David Smith Sunday Times Agree Very confident
The UK has a history of regional policy failures, so a degree of scepticism is appropriate. Enterprise zones have a role to play but will not create the kind of shift in regional economic power the government has in mind. Reversing decades of relative decline for some of Britain's regions will itself take decades.
Etienne Wasmer Sciences Po, Paris Agree Very confident
Evi Pappa European University institute Agree Confident
Nicholas Oulton London School of Economics Strongly agree Very confident
Regional disparities in GDP per head seem to be widening. So something needs to be done to reverse this trend. Congestion and planning regulations mean that simply encouraging people to move South to take advantage of better wages and jobs is not going to work. But I doubt whether Enterprise Zones are going to be a big part of the solution. In principle the Northern Powerhouse is the right sort of approach. This is what the French have done in developing "poles de croissance" such as the Toulouse region. In practice, the Northern Powerhouse is proceeding at a glacial pace.
Sir Christopher... London School of Economics Agree Very confident
A successful regional policy raises incomes and jobs in depressed regions and keeps immigration flows to the South East and other booming regions down
David Cobham Heriot Watt University Strongly agree Confident
The social and political case for a regional policy which will reduce the gravitational pull of London and the South East, and respond to the growing perception of inequality elsewhere in the UK, is obvious. But there is also an economic case to be made in terms of the best use of resources and the maximisation of the potential of citizens (and, dare I say it, immigrants).
Alan Sutherland University of St. Andrews Agree Confident
Michael McMahon University of Oxford Agree Very confident
Akos Valentinyi University of Manchester Agree Very confident
Jan Eeckhout University College London Agree Confident
Paul De Grauwe London School of Economics No opinion Confident
I have the same problem here as with the previous question
David Miles Imperial College Disagree Confident
Devolution of some tax setting and spending decisions makes sense. But I do not think one should call this regional policy and if we exclude it then I am doubtful that something called a "new regional policy" will be very successful.
Kevin Hjortshøj... Oxford University Agree Confident
Ethan Ilzetzki London School of Economics Disagree Not confident
I can see some rationale for regional policy, but again am not sure this is helpful in practice. If the UK government were truly serious about regional policy it would devolve more fiscal control and power to local authorities that are more likely to have a good sense of how to help local enterprise. The competition between local governments can also be beneficial in spuring local development. A central government favoring specific localities is more likely to do so at the expense of others.
Ricardo Reis London School of Economics and Columbia University Neither agree nor disagree Not confident
Same answer as to the previous question, although my impression was that the literature is less kind to regional policies relative to industrial policies.
Jonathan Temple University of Bristol Agree Not confident
Andrew Mountford Royal Holloway Strongly agree Extremely confident
Regional policy is term that means different things to different people. To some it is about giving tax breaks in a race to the bottom game of regional beggar-they-neighbor" tax competition, while to others it is about investing in the development of regional infrastructure and skills to complement/partner private sector investment. I am not in favor of the first interpretation as it is irresponsible at a national level and will ultimately be self defeating. Support for providing public investment and subsidizing skill accumulation depends on whether you think there are externalities associated with these investments. I believe that there are very strong externalities associated with these investments and so support such a regionial strategy.
Kate Barker British Coal Staff Superannuation Scheme Strongly agree Extremely confident
The EU referendum and the recent data on productivity gaps suggest that the regional issues, while intractable, need to be given much more energy and resource.
Joseph Pearlman City University London Agree Very confident
This needs to be addressed taking into account all other decisions that are being made. For example, many people are sceptical about the spending on HS2, as it is likely to benefit London overwhelmingly, and is likely to detract from the success of regional industrial zones.
Tony Yates University of Birmingham Agree Not confident
Agree in two respects. First that regional policy should emerge from a kind of social insurance, in that market incompleteness and social justice demand that we don't force individuals to bear all the costs of volatilty in the regional distribution of jobs and income. And second, that there can be coordination and network effects in whether a region is prosperous or not [see literature on Chicago, and clusters] which government policy instruments may be able to affect.
Richard Portes London Business School and CEPR Agree Not confident
Here there is some evidence, apparently positive. But again, i doubt our implementation capacity over the next several years.