Annual Forum Papers

Territorial competitiveness and development policy

  • Year: 2008
  • Organisation: Orkestra, Basque Institute of Competitiveness
  • Author(s): James Wilson

There are fundamental links between academic treatments of 'economic development' and of the popular policy discourse of 'competitiveness'. Productivity-focused analyses of competitiveness are inherently related to market-centric analyses of development that have economic growth as their objective. However, a consensus is emerging on the need for broader conceptions of economic progress, built in particular on recognition of: (i) the inconsistency of short-term, unconditional growth with environmental sustainability; and (ii) the complexity of relationships between income, other socio-economic factors and actual well-being. This paper argues that moving 'beyond income' has implications for competitiveness discourse. Understanding the drivers of productivity will remain a key concern, as income will remain a core component of economic development. However, there is a danger that the dominance of a narrow, marketfocused competitiveness discourse will continue to skew policy. The paper argues that the very popularity of the competitiveness concept among policy-makers in fact presents an opportunity: broader conceptualisations may facilitate the integration into policy of wider socio-economic concerns. Analysis of the contested competitiveness concept is combined with reflection on recent advances in the measurement of economic progress in proposing the necessary reconceptualisation of competitiveness for today's economic development challenges.