This year, the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Competitiveness is focusing on two major areas:

  1. Building competitiveness at the sub-national level by focusing on best practices and initiatives underway at the provincial and city level.
  2. Structural and institutional reforms to overcome barriers to competitiveness.

Following the publication of best practices for National Competitiveness Councils, the Global Agenda Council on Competitiveness will now turn its attention to real structural and institutional sticking points for boosting competitiveness. It is also compiling best practices on competitiveness initiatives and reporting at the local and regional level.

There are exciting things going on in the world of competitiveness as efforts now extend from national to local and provincial or state governments. Innovative initiatives are underway in such countries as Brazil, Egypt and Vietnam. In Colombia, local strategies have trigger resource allocations from the national government. Vietnam has, for years, published a competitiveness index used to assess the effectiveness of provincial leadership. Turkey has also focused on their regional performance on the topic over the last decade.

When the World Economic Forum published the first Global Competitiveness Index over 30 years ago, few people were focusing on the issue as matter of national policy. The Forum’s focus has gained momentum in the last 15 years. Today, National Competitiveness Councils exist in many countries, many of which are members in a Global Federation of Competitiveness Councils. Since 1990, there has been a profound increase in academic focus on this area of research around the world.

Addressing competitiveness is more important than ever, especially as austerity plans are not proving to be the answer. Competitiveness may be the only way out of the current fiscal traps. Luckily, the science (and art) of building competitiveness is advancing.

Author: Kevin X. Murphy is President and Chief Executive Officer of J.E. Austin Associates (JAA), and a Member of the Global Agenda Council on Competitiveness.

Photo: Competitors start a heat in the women’s 100m race at the Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro July 23, 2007. REUTERS/Bruno Domingos Domingos